Representative Calls For Bipartisan Support for Criminalizing Fertility Fraud
Michigan State Rep. John Roth, R-Interlochen, released a statement recently after House Republican Leader Matt Hall, R-Richland sent a letter to House Speaker Joe Tate, D-Detroit asking for bipartisan support. The letter includes a plan to criminalize fertility fraud, sponsored by Roth, that was supposed to be considered in October as part of a larger plan.
"Leader Hall clearly outlined non-partisan issues that both sides should be able to get behind," Roth said. "The fact that only two votes were taken in January is completely unacceptable to the people we represent. House Republicans are ready to vote yes, but Speaker Tate needs to end the blockade and get his House back in order," he added.
A growing issue in the United States, fertility fraud occurs when a doctor performs artificial insemination without the patient's consent. This behavior exploits power dynamics and violates the trust of patients. Certain states, such as Texas, have taken action by enacting fertility laws that classify fraudulent fertility treatments as criminal offenses. House Bills 4178-4182 aim to safeguard women and families while criminalizing fertility fraud. Roth's proposal introduces two new felony charges concerning false representation and embryo substitution.
"Women in Michigan have been betrayed by doctors they trusted to guide them through the fertility treatment process," Roth said. "Doctors can falsely represent or swap embryos, and our archaic state law still doesn’t consider these heinous acts a crime. I’m confident our bipartisan plan to criminalize these abhorrent practices would see broad support from both sides of the aisle," he added.
The discussion surrounding this fraud has been around for quite some time. In 2020, an HBO documentary titled "Baby God" shed light on the story of Quincy Fortier and his decades-long fraudulent activities. Throughout his 40-year medical practice, doctors like Fortier impregnated patients, resulting in the birth of over 26 children. The fertility specialist passed away in 2006, at the age of 94. However, it wasn't until 2018 that the full extent of his actions came to light when a woman decided to take a DNA test, revealing unexpected familial connections.
Similarly, another doctor named Donald Cline used his sperm to impregnate over 90 women, fathering at least 94 children between 1974 and 1987. The revelation of Cline's actions surfaced in 2014 as home DNA test kits gained popularity. This discovery unveiled the doctor's covert use of his sperm to fertilize his patients' eggs, sparking widespread outrage and calls for accountability within the medical community.
At that time, there were no laws explicitly prohibiting this now-illegal practice. Instead, Cline was charged with obstruction of justice, false advertising, and immoral conduct, resulting in the loss of their medical license. Subsequently, he pleaded guilty to multiple level 6 felony counts of obstruction of justice and received a one-year suspended sentence. By May 2022, he had paid over $1.35 million to settle three lawsuits, with numerous similar cases coming to light thereafter.
In 2019, Indiana made history by becoming the first US state to enact legislation criminalizing fertility fraud. The Fighting Fertility Fraud Act of 2023 (HR 3710) not only makes fertility fraud illegal but also delineates specific crimes and causes of action related to fraud in this context. Roth's call for bipartisan support in criminalizing fertility fraud marks a significant step towards protecting individuals and families from the egregious violations perpetrated by unethical practitioners. The proposed legislation promises to address a longstanding issue that has undermined trust in the medical profession and caused immeasurable harm to those affected.
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