Fraud and malpractice in fertility medicine is unfortunately a long-running and pervasive problem, particularly when it comes to doctors choosing to use their own sperm instead of that of a requested donor. A new bill championed by fertility fraud activist Eve Wiley would help punish such actions by lifting the seven-year statute of limitations specifically in fertility cases.
Senate Bill 1895, which was voted out of the Health and Human Services Committee, addresses a common problem in fertility fraud cases: people don’t often learn the truth until they are adults and long past the normal statute of limitations. Wiley herself did not find out until she was 30-years-old that her biological father was actually her mother’s fertility doctor, Nacogdoches obstetrician-gynecologist Kim McMorries. After Wiley took a genetics test, McMorries finally admitted that he used his own sperm and justified it as necessary to help her mother conceive.
Wiley has tracked down at least nine other children that McMorries fathered without their mother’s consent. In the backlash of his actions, he has announced his retirement, but so far has not been the subject of criminal charges. His story is a frighteningly common one in the world of fertility medicine. One British doctor, Bertold Wiesner, fathered over 600 children at his fertility clinic without the consent of the mothers. Indianapolis-area fertility specialist Donald Cline did the same for over 60 children.
Which is one of the reasons that Wiley has become a champion in this strange and vile world of medical malpractice. Following her discovery of her birthright in 2018, she worked with Sen. Joan Huffman (D-Houston) to pass Senate Bill 1259, which made fertility fraud a felony with a penalty of up to $10,000 in fines and two years in prison. The law, however, is not retroactive and McMorries suffered no legal consequences.
It’s possible that this may change if SB 1895 (also authored by Huffman) passes as well. Fertility fraud is considered a form of rape, and public awareness of doctors’ callous disregard for their patient’s consent to be impregnated by their own sperm is growing. Doctors typically wave away the complaints by saying that their sperm was the best choice to ensure a pregnancy, as McMorries did, but there is no evidence this is the case.
Unfortunately, states are still pretty wary of making criminals out if these doctors. Fertility medicine was a kind of Wild West for most of the twentieth century, and doctors impregnating patients with their own sperm wasn’t even widely against the law until the last decade. Though movement is happening, such as making laboratories have to be certified by the American College of Pathologists, many lawmakers don’t want to wade into the fight because of its proximity to abortion. Fertility treatments, particularly in vitro fertilization (IVF) often involve destroying embryos, which triggers many a legal fight about where a separate human life begins. Even progressive lawmakers worry about criminalizing doctors in the current environment lest it aid the anti-reproductive choice movement.
That said, What McMorries did is now illegal in the state of Texas, and the nature of his crimes and the crimes of other doctors like him is likely to be undetectable before the typical statute of limitations runs out. If SB 1895 changes that, we might finally see some justice being done where there was no hope of it before.