Aiding Marital Childlessness: Christian Religious Responses to Husband and Donor Insemination in Belgium and Britain, 1940–1980*

Tinne Claes*, Yuliya Hilevych

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article compares religious responses to artificial insemination in Belgium and Britain from circa 1940 to 1980. Belgium was predominantly Catholic, whereas Britain was religiously diverse, combining Anglicanism, Protestantism, and Catholicism as the main Christian denominations. Despite these differences, religious actors in both countries became more permissive towards artificial insemination in the period under study. This article reveals that religious actors were adapting their morals to medical and societal challenges of the time. In the 1940s, doctors and theologians argued that artificial insemination by husband was moral if masturbation was avoided, and in the 1970s, even artificial insemination by donor became a subject of open discussion in both contexts. By then, the supposedly harmonious relationship between infertility and adoption had crumbled due to the widespread use of the pill. Against a background of secularisation and faced with a growing visibility of involuntary childlessness, different roads to parenthood became acceptable.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-525
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Religious History
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep-2022

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