Scientific ethics of samesex procreation

Jesus said to [the Jews]: "... You belong to your father, the devil, ... you do not belong to God." -- St. John 8:42-47

If you believe Jesus said this, or that this passage belongs in the New Testament, please do not read this Web page - you are too unethical and insulting of God (and in the England, either Jesus or John would be guilty of a verbal hate crime). And you should shut up about samesex marriage and procreation and ethics.

Over the next few decades as the science of female sperm and male eggs continues to be researched and made practical, many ethical arguments will be raised. But to put such ethics in balance, the ethics of female sperm and male egg activities are insignificant as compared to the unethics of the ongoing destruction of the Earth's environment, and as compared to the unethics of discrimination against women in too many of the world's religious, political and economic institutions. Any philosophical system whose non-sex related rules are not invariant with respect to men and women is much more unethical than use of female sperm and male eggs. For the practical problems of the applications of female sperm and male eggs, we have the fine advisory committees of the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration to insure that female sperm creation is a well overseen medical process.

That said, let's focus on a few of the ethical issues that will dominate such discussions:

There will be many charges of ethics violations from religious groups with regards to homosexual procreation, to match the hate and evil directed towards homosexuals themselves. The question is - just how ethical are these religions to hatefully throw stones of questionable ethics, especially when the scientific ethics fully supports homosexuality and same-sex procreation? Is it a matter of choosing between hate and love?

This Web page is dedicated to John Templeton and his Foundation, who will never, ever succeed in his quest to bring science and religion together, until he first helps religions confess and eliminate the evil elements in their beliefs and texts. Until then, science should ignore Templeton and his foundation, because all he is trying to do is buy a lie.

Ethics and Artificial Sperms and Eggs

In 2005, the journal Bioethics published an excellent article on the ethics of artificial sperm and eggs, especially in light of the breakthroughs of the the previous few years. While much of the article is concerned about artificial sperm for men, and artificial eggs for women, one section discusses the ethics of female sperm and male eggs. Their paper is titled "Ethics and Synthetic Gametes", Bioethics, v19 n2 2005, 146-166, (Article abstract) . Quotes:


d. Same sex parents

The sensational possibility of an all male or female, presumably (although not necessarily) gay or lesbian couple being able to manufacture male and female gametes from either partner to enable them to have a child which shares the genetic make-up of the parents in the same proportion, and virtually in the same way as for heterosexual couples, will undoubtedly grab and indeed make the headlines. There will undoubtedly be strong objection, but can we say clearly whether these objections will have any substance or credibility? We think we can.

When synthetic gametes become available, a heterosexual couple, of whom neither can produce usable gametes, will be able to father and mother their own children for the first time. All decent people will celebrate this possibility. The same development will open the way for same sex couples to do likewise. Given that same sex couples are, in many societies, already able to use ART to help them have children to whom they will be genetically related and indeed are also able to adopt children, it is difficult to see what objections here could be to this that would be immune to charges of homophobia or of discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation.

It is likely that those who feel uncomfortable about the prospect of same sex couples sharing equally the genetic contribution to their children will still object. The most plausible objections to the use of reproductive technologies in such cases would have to centre on some suggestion that the interests of the child that will result from the process will be prejudiced by the nature, novelty or 'strangeness' of the process itself, rather than to some criticism of the fitness of same sex couples to be parents per se have already been made and found wanting in the case of sperm and egg donation, surrogacy, other ARTs and adoption. And of course this form of objection will not be available to those who do not object to heterosexual couples availing themselves of the technology.

A detailed dismissal of all the objections that might be made here would be beyond the purview of this paper. Suffice it to say that there is no evidence that children produced by ART so far fare significantly worse than other 'normal' children. Moreover since the children produced by ART are almost always not the same children that would have been born had ART not been used, it is always in these children's interest to have been produced in this way because unless their existence proves unbearable 'their' only alternative would have been never to have existed at all.

Since it is now generally acknowledged that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender is not only unacceptable, but more importantly, profoundly immoral the most intriguing and dramatic possible use of synthetic gametes should neither alarm us nor constitute reasons to reject the immense potential of these developments. It could be seen in fact as a technologically mediated way to further democratize human reproduction by overcoming natural barriers in societies that have long acknowledged, in theory and increasingly in practice (adoption still being the most conspicuous example), the distinction between genomic and social parenthood.

Earlier in their article, they state the key ethical concern: "For, as noted above, the combination of a correctly imprinted sperm and a correctly imprinted oocyte is a prerequisite for a healthy offspring."

* * *

Another paper explores the issue of "2+1" parent babies, where one woman donates her mitochondria (energy generators in cells) to a fertilized egg of a second women, where the second woman's mitochondria are defective. A minor genetic contribution of the first woman, but enough to raise legal issues, similar maybe to men who donate part of their Y chromosomes to women to make female sperm. The paper is titled "How to prevent 'half-bastard' progeny? or An alternative for three-parent babies: two-parent babies through transplantation of sperm mitochondria", Medical Hypotheses. 2006. (Article abstract) .

Happiness of Same-Sex Marriage Children

There is only one potential reason to oppose same sex marriage - the impossibility of same sex procreation. But if that is not impossible, then the only issue of concern remaining is the happiness and health of children raised in same sex marriages. Too often the interests of children in such marriages is overshadowed by the talk of equal rights for the adults, economics of benefits, federalism, etc. Important issues, but none more important than the interests of the children.

So the question becomes: are children raised in same-sex marriages (for now, either adopted or where one parent is a biological parent; in the future, where both parents are biological parents) as happy and healthy as childred raised in different-sex marriages?

What follows are links to studies and stories that answer this important question with a hearty YES!!! - that children of gay and lesbian parents are developmentally similar to those with heterosexual parents (especially if one factors out any potential unhappiness due to hate directed towards such families by other people).

Same-sex couples raising children less likely to be white, wealthy - San Francisco Chronicle, 31 October 2007

Same-sex couples step up to adopt foster kids - San Francisco Chronicle, 21 May 2007

Adoption and Foster Care by Lesbian and Gay Parents in the United States - Urban Institute, 27 March 2007 - comprehensive study finds no negative consequences

Kids stress gay families' similarities - San Jose Mercury News, 7 March 2004, 1A

For children of gays, marriage brings joy - New York Times, 19 March 2004, A13

Planned lesbian families: their desire and motivation to have children
Henny Bos
Human Reproduction, v18 2003, 2216-2224
Gay children of same-sex marriage opponents

In a country with hundreds of millions of people, even a statistic with a low probability will translate into real-life instances. For example, consider the family dilemma of anti-same-sex marriage advocates who have children that are homosexual. For such advocates, what is more important - your family or a questionable viewpoint? Here is a list of such families.

Same Sex Marriage - Constitutionality and Female Sperm

There are two potential secular reasons against same sex marriage: same sex couples cannot raise children as beneficially as different sex couples (well-raised children being an important national interest), and same sex couples, well, cannot have their own children in the sense of a child being the genetic combination of two people (a child having genes from two women via fetal mating [which also involves male genes] or donor-oocyte mitochondrial transfer [which has very few genes from the second woman] not close enough to having two women equally combine their genes).

The first reason, child raising, will be easily blown away by the Supreme Court, for there is no scientific evidence to support such an assertion (what's the baseline for a well-raised child, Britney Spears and Michael Jackson?). There is a large and growing body of literature comparing children raised in both types of environments, and there is no statistical difference attributable to the parents (just as there is no statisical difference found in children raised by different race couples). Besides, this really isn't a gut issue to motivate people.

No, it is the second reason, the inability of having their own children, that is the gut emotional issue driving those against same sex marriage. It doesn't matter that many different sex couples don't have children, or can't have children because their are infertile, or adopt - again, if those were the only reasons against same sex marriage, the Supreme Court would shoot down anti-same sex marriage laws. No, it is purely the biological aspect of having children, summarizing all of this, both emotionally and constitutionally, quite simply as:


That right, let's all start saying what the real issue is, same sex procreation. Interestingly, doing sweeps of online news databases finds that this phrase isn't being used that much, despite it being the essential controversy underlying same sex marriage - same sex procreation. Same sex procreation - same sex procreation - same sex procreation. Good, everyone start making use of the term.

A good recent example of this line being drawn is an op-ed aritcle in the 18 March 2004 edition of the Wall Street Journal, page A16, titled "Selma to San Francisco?" written by Shelby Steele of the Hoover Institution. Some excerpts:

    The civil rights movement argued that it was precisely the utter
    innocuousness of racial differences that made segregation an
    injustice.  Racism was evil because it projected a profound
    difference where there was none - white supremacy, black
    inferiority - for the sole purpose of exploiting blacks.

    Natural procreation is possible only for heterosexuals, a fact of
    nature that obligates their sexuality to no less a responsibility
    than the perpetuation of the species.

    Racism projects a false difference in order to exploit. Homophobia
    is a reactive prejudice against a true and firm difference that
    already exists.

    Institutions that arise to accomodate these two sexual orientations
    can never be exactly the same.  Across time and cultures, marriage
    has been a heterosexual institution grounded in the procreative
    function and the responsbilities of parenthood - this more than in
    either love or adult fulfillment.

    Marriage is simply the arrangement by which humans perpetuate the
    species, whether or not they find fulfillment in it.

    [H]omosexuality is as permanent a feature of the human condition
    as heterosexuality.  Nothing is gained in denying this.  But
    neither should we deny that the two are inherently different.

This type of legal analysis is not new. For example, in 1971, two men sued the State of Minnesota to get a marriage license. A state district court denied their petition, and the case was appealed to the state supreme court. In their decision (Baker v. Nelson, 291 Minn. 310 [1971]), the court emphasized that the key distinction in these issues is that of procreation:

    The institution of marriage is a union of man and woman, uniquely
    involving the procreation and rearing of children within a
    family, is as old as the book of Genesis.  Skinner v. Oklahoma
    (316 U.S. 535 [1942]), which invalidated Oklahoma's Habitual
    Criminal Sterilization Act on equal protection grounds, stated 
    in part: "Marriage and procreation are fundamental to the very
    existence and survival of the race."  This historic institution
    manifestly is more deeply founded than the asserted contemporary
    concept of marriage and societal interests for which petitioners


    Loving does indicate that not all state restrictions upon the
    right to marry are beyond reach of the Fourteenth Amendment.
    But in commonsense and in a constitutional sense, there is a
    clear distinction between a marital restriction based merely
    upon race and one based upon the fundamental difference in sex.
Other comments on marriage and procreation.

But in light of same sex procreation, this "fundamental" difference becomes a "mere" difference, so that the racial logic of Loving applies to any petition for same sex marriage. It is fear of this possibility that causes opponents of same sex marriage to refuse to seriously study the science of procreation.

But with female sperm, we do have same sex procreation, and therefore same sex mothers with their same-sexed daughters. Once anywhere in the world a same-sexed daughter is born, it will leave the United States Supreme Court little choice but to declare all state and federal anti-same sex marriage laws unconstitutional, given all of their denials of separate-but-equal and/or religous establishment laws. The secular aspects of marriage have to be equal for all, and the religious aspects are for religions alone to promote and have as laws - not the government.

Supreme Court Justice Douglas, dissenting-in-part in Lindsey v. Normet (405 U.S. 56,82 [1972]), writes about the fundamental nature of procreation: "Mr. Justice Marshall in Hall v. Beals, 396 U.S. 45,52 (dissenting), spoke of the protection afforded "fundamental interests" when it came to classifications made by legislatures. In that case it was the franchise. Race is in the same category (McLaughlin v. Florida, 379 U.S. 184); so are wealth (Douglas v. California, 372 U.S. 353; Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections, 383 U.S. 663); procreation (Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535); and interstate travel (Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618). Classifications that burden, impinge, or discriminate against such fundamental interests are "highly suspect" - McDonald v. Board of Elections, 394 U.S. 802,807."

Indeed, even ignoring the issue of same sex procreation, anti-same sex marriage laws are probably unconstitutional. Columbia law professor Michael Dorf has written an essay titled "Three Bad Reasons -- and One Very Good Reason -- to Oppose a Constitutional Amendment Barring Same-Sex Marriage". He argues that three of these arguments don't hold water: the argument deriving from states' rights; the argument claiming that constitutional amendments can legitimately expand, but not contract, individual rights; and the argument that relies upon a general hostility to constitutional amendment. However, he argues there is one very powerful argument against the amendment: the moral argument for treating gay persons as equal. Full text of his essay.


2003: Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health (Massachusetts) - Massachusetts Supreme Court rules that prohibitions against same sex civil marriage violates the state constitution. Cites Lawrence v. Texas (2003), Loving v. Virginia (1967), and Perez v. Sharp (1948).

2003: Lawrence v. Texas - Supreme Court rules that Texas law against sodomy, applied to two homosexual men, is unconstitutional. Cites Loving v. Virginia (1967).

1993: Baehr v. Lewin (Hawaii) - Hawaiian Supreme Court rules that if homosexuality is biological, then the state has to allow same sex marriages. Cites Loving v. Virginia (1967) and Perez v. Sharp (1948).

1967: Loving v. Virginia - Supreme Court rules that laws against interracial marriage are unconstitutional. Cites Perez v. Sharp (1948) in footnote.

1948: Perez v. Sharp (California) - California Supreme Court rules that laws against interracial marriage are unconstitutional.

Female Sperm, Cloning, Stem Cells and Artificial Chromosomes

Making female sperm involves a lot of science, but especially cloning, stem cells and artificial chromosomes. If the public comes to accept these latter three aspects of science, it will be hard for the public to then deny a use of these three aspects - female sperm. It is hard to balkanize science - it is a web of facts and ethics.

Take cloning. Even scientists agree that cloning for reproductive purposes should not be allowed. They do so for many reasons, but I like mine best: reproductive cloning is both boring (like Britney Spear's cloning of Joan Jett's I like rock and roll video - actually like Britney's entire entertainment career) and pointless (humans are both nature and nurture). But not therapeutic cloning, which has too many benefits for few ethical costs (besides which, America is not the only country pursuing therapeutic cloning - other countries such as China where the ethical concerns are different will probably lead in the development of therapeutic cloning, somewhat using American investment dollars).

Extracting germ cells from a cloned female as the germ cells migrate out of the yolk sac and enter the gonad region requires waiting until six to eight weeks after fertilization, aborting the clone, and extracting the cells. Is it ethical to do so? Professor Clifford Grobstein, in his 1988 book "Science and the Unborn", argues that it is ethical if done meaningfully:

For the moment, the central point is that the embyro, though increasingly to be valued, remains too immature structurally, functionally, and behaviorally to warrant classification as a person. It should, however, be recognized as a member of the human family entitled to protection against treatment or deprivation of life that is casual and demeaning. (page 143)
This ethical basis in science is compatible with the ethical views of some religions. For example, in the June 2000 "Ethical Issues in Human Stem Cell Research, Volume III Religious Perspectives, published by the National Bioethics Advisory Commission, Rabbi Elliot Dorff of the University of Judaism write about Jewish views of genetic materials:
Stem cells for research purposes also can be procured from donated sperm and eggs mixed together and cultured in a Petri dish. Genetic materials outside the uterus have no legal status in Jewish law, for they are not even a part of a human being until implanted in a woman's womb, and even then, during the first 40 days of gestation, their status is "as if they were simple water" (see footnote 5). Abortion is still prohibited during that time, except for therapeutic purposes, for in the uterus such gametes have the potential of growing into a human being. Outside the womb, however, at least at this time, they have no such potential. As a result, frozed embryos may be discarded or used for reasonable purposes and so may the stem cells that are procured from them.

Footnote 5: Babylonian Talmud, Yevamot 69b. Rabbi Immanuel Jacobovits notes that "40 days" in talmudic terms may mean just under two months in our modern way of calculating gestation, since the rabbis counted from the time of the first missed menstrual flow while we count from time of conception, approximately two week earlier.

This 40-60 day period was also adopted by the early Christian church, when in the 6th century, the Justinian code legislated that the soul entered the embryo at 40 days (mostly likely borrowing from Judiasm). This remained the rule for 1000 years, until in 1588 Pope Sixtus V received a new message from God that ensoulment happended at conception. This was only a three year old message, for in 1591 Pope Gregory XIV received a newer message from God that it was a fetus at five months that first received a soul. Well, at least until 1869, when Pope Pius X received a newer newer message from God that ensoulment happens at conception. Skeptics can legitimately ask when the next message from God about ensoulment will be sent.

Of course, it would be more ethical to obtain cells from a clone as early as possible, such as from the blastocyst stage about one week after fertilization, and converting the embryonic stem cells into germ cells.

To create adult female diploid germ cells requires aborting a cloned embryo at around 7 to 8 weeks after fertilization (during the first trimester). The latest abortion statistics show that about 55% of all legal abortions happen in the first 8 weeks of pregnancy (CDC, Alan Guttmacher Institute). One can argue then that cloning for female sperm is as ethical (from the point of view of the embryo) as abortion, if not more so, since the goal of female sperm is to create life, not end it as in abortion - the "potentiality of life" in the embryo is just brought to life with a different biological pathway. With regards to the "pregnant woman's health", abortion at 7 to 8 weeks can be done with minimal physical discomfort to the woman, as well as with minimal mental discomfort, since the eventual goal is the mentally-pleasing creation of a baby. These two state concerns, "potentiality of life" and "pregnant woman's health" (the mesage of Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113), can be easily satisfied to deny the state's ability to override the Due Process - 14th Amendment right to privacy of women seeking to procreate via female sperm using abortion.

Then there is human artificial chromosomes and germ line gene engineering. But heck, humans modify everything, especially the environment and animals (look at the sufferings of some weirdly bred dogs). We even modify ourselves (plastic surgery, organ transplants, stem cell injections, etc.). The question is should such modifications done to the body be inheritable? More specifically, inheritable by genes, as opposed to financially inherited modifications: a woman who has plastic surgery to make herself more attractive to potentially attract a more successful husband, whose success can insure that the woman's daughters can afford to have plastic surgery to make them more attractive .... you get the point.

Should all of these ethical concerns be endlessly debated? Yes. But is there anything fundamentally unethical about female sperm. No.


The moral status of the pre-implantation embryo - statement of the ESHRE Task Force on Ethics and Law, 2001

Embryonic stem cell production through therapeutic cloning has fewer ethical problems than stem cell harvest from surplus IVF embryos - John-Erik Stig Hansen, 2000