Indiana woman impregnated by doctor's sperm welcomes new 'fertility fraud' law
Liz White saw Dr. Donald Cline in the hopes of having a child. He secretly impregnated her with his own sperm
On Sunday, Indiana signed into legislation the first law in the U.S. to declare "fertility fraud" — when a doctor or health-care professional uses their own sperm to impregnate a woman, instead of a supposed donor, without their knowledge — a felony.
It's a great relief for Liz White, one of the most vocal campaigners for the law, who discovered in 2016 that her fertility doctor Donald Cline impregnated her with his own sperm, instead of an anonymous donor.
White's son Matt, now in his 30s, was one of over 50 people who, with the help of DNA testing and online genealogy sites like 23andMe, discovered they were half-siblings, surreptitiously fathered by Cline.
"I feel a great sense of gratitude," White told As It Happens host Carol Off. "It was a relief to realize that, you know, the state of Indiana through the legislature agreed with this wholeheartedly, with a unanimous vote."
They were referred to him with a recommendation because he used "live donor sperm" instead of frozen specimens.
"He was said to be the best in Indiana," she recalled.
She was told the sperm would come from an anonymous donor resident at the nearby hospital.
White said she had no reason to suspect that anything was amiss at the time.
"I believed what the doctor said. He said it very succinctly and he said it very clearly. And I put my trust in him. And at no time did I suspect it was anybody but a resident."
'Oh my gosh, we're probably part of this too'
It wasn't until 2016, when local prosecutors first began looking into Cline's case after allegations from another woman who believed she was similarly impregnated.
"Not until it was in court ... did I think, 'Oh my gosh, we're probably part of this too,'" she said.
DNA testing revealed the truth: Cline was indeed Matt's father. He had just discovered he had dozens of half-siblings.
"He was 42. I was 29. And I felt violated that he not only lied to me but he, in a sense, used me."
As a licensed clinical social worker in Indiana herself, White was especially perturbed to learn what Cline had done in the confines of a health-care facility.
"This is one place we should all feel safe," she said. "And when I realized that we weren't safe, he had lied to us, and had planned it again and again with other mothers, so it was terribly awful to hear all the stories."
Cline was charged with obstruction of justice for denying allegations he had secretly impregnated patients with his own sperm. He was fined $500 and stripped of his medical licence, though by then he was already retired.
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White said she was "absolutely surprised" to learn that Cline's actions weren't against the law.
"It was just unbelievable that we could not charge him with his behaviour," she said.
She expressed gratitude to the Indiana legislature's bipartisan support for the bill, ensuring that, at least in Indiana, that future mothers and families will have the legal recourse she did not.
"I'm very grateful to them, and I'm grateful that people who have to deal with infertility now — if it's not handled correctly, then they themselves have the right to and pursue it in the courts," she said.
Written by Jonathan Ore. Interview with Liz White produced by Morgan Passi.