Donor insemination is a process where donated semen is introduced into a woman's vagina in order to produce a pregnancy. It does not include situations where an ovum is fertilised outside the body as part of fertility treatment or heterosexual intercourse.
Donor insemination can take place either via a licensed clinic or by means of "self insemination".
Licensed clinics are able to provide a variety of medical and legal safeguards that are either difficult or impossible to achieve from self-insemination. Unfortunately the availability of this option to lesbians is constrained by the costs (it is often unavailable on the NHS for lesbians) and the attitudes of the clinics.
Although the law does not prohibit lesbians from receiving services from licensed clinics, it does give guidelines that allow individual clinics to discriminate against lesbians. In particular Section 13(5) of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 states:- "A woman shall not be provided with treatment services unless account has been taken of the welfare of any child who may be born as a result of the treatment (including the need of that child for a father)....."
The sperm donor is not regarded as the child's legal father and therefore has no legal obligations or responsibilities for the child.
The donor remains largely anonymous with regards the mother and child, except for the situation of the 'child' needing to find out if she/he is related to an intended spouse
A woman is largely free to make her own arrangements with the donor with a view to becoming pregnant. It is also legal for someone to act as an intermediary between the parties. Intermediaries are occasionally used when neither donor nor recipient wish to know each other's identity.
A licensed clinic will usually test the donated sperm for health risks in ways that are not available to private individuals, and by storing frozen sperm can ensure that a donor who has recently contracted an illness can be re-tested. This is necessary as tests often fail to detect recent infections.
It is therefore much harder for a self-insemination process to achieve the level of safety that a clinic can provide.
The donor in this situation has the same rights and responsibilities of an unmarried father. This includes the responsibility for child support. It is also possible for the child to make a claim against the donor's estate if he failed to make adequate provision in his will.