What is a family?

Via Reason’s Hit and Run I find this story about a Taiwanese women who wanted to harvest the sperm of her recently deceased fiancée so that she could get pregnant by him. Reason of course played up the sex angle, but I found it interesting from a cultural angle. The article referenced (from Taipei Times) is pretty useless from a legal point of view, but it did say that the state had ruled in favor of her petition. I sort of wondered what the man’s parents thought of this, although they were not mentioned in the piece, since they would be the obvious ones to control his “body” under American law. (The state had a special interest in this man because he was in the army at the time of his fatal accident.)

I was struck by the woman’s desire to have a baby with someone who was dead. Taipei Times stated that there had already been some 80 cases like this in the U.S. I would assume that all of these were wives who wanted to have more children with their husbands. According to one write-up I found, the fiancée claimed to already be married in the eyes of the family, and that she wanted to ensure that there would be descendents.


This seems a rather old-fashioned way of looking at family law, and apparently one that the state was frowning on at first, but then the gave in under public pressure. For any American, of course, going out of your way to become a single mom would seem a bad idea. For this woman one can speculate that she is hoping to get whatever benefits come with being a military widow. True Love is also a possibility. I would guess that cementing her position in the man’s family, in the old-fashioned way we all teach about in Chinese history classes is the most likely

Another write-up here


  1. This one is pretty obviously an attempt to establish provincial identity in the context of national identity, in part by emphasizing love of province but also by elevating the struggle with Japan to equality with the struggle with Communism (As opposed to Chiang’s focus on the Communists.)

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