Fertility fraud victim wants punishment put in Ohio law

By: - March 22, 2021 12:30 am

Annie Otzen/Getty Images

Last November, Carrie Lauterbach did what many people have done since the fad began and submitted her DNA through a commercially-sold test to find out her genetic background.

She knew her mother had gone to a fertility doctor in Cincinnati for help conceiving Carrie and her sister. She knew her parents had filled out paperwork full of traits in available sperm donors to find one that resembled her father, and worked with the doctor to make the process of becoming parents a reality.

“My parents really trusted the doctor,” Lauterbach said. “He seemed to connect with them on a personal level, understanding the emotional highs and lows associated with fertility treatment.”

It wasn’t until she received the results back from that November DNA test that Lauterbach learned she has six half-siblings, all related to that trusted doctor.

Lauterbach spoke before the Ohio House Criminal Justice Committee on behalf of her family, and especially on behalf of her mother, who is still dealing with the pain of the realization.

“She, like victims of other crimes, is too ashamed and embarrassed to tell story,” Lauterbach said. “She is the reason I am here today.”

Lauterbach and others spoke in support of a newly proposed bill in the Ohio legislature which would create in Ohio law punishments for doctors who use their own sperm in the fertility process, without the knowledge of the parent.

The bill creates a third-degree felony offense if a licensed health care professional is charged with “purposely or knowingly (using) human reproduction material from a donor that the recipient of the procedure has not consented to,” according to the bill.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Jena Powell, R-Arcanum, also included in the bill the possibility for civil action in the cases of women who “find out years later that the doctor used his own sperm rather than that of an approved anonymous donor,” Powell said in previous testimony on the bill.

The bill is also supported by the Ohio Prosecuting Attorney’s Association, who said in a statement to the committee that the measure “closes what is legitimately a legal loophole in our criminal code.”

As a woman who has used fertility treatments just as her mother did, Lauterbach demanded the protection for women that they need when going through such an intimate part of life.

“Fertility treatment is unique in that the doctor-patient relationship is based on trust, rapport, understanding and compassion built through a series of visits over many weeks, months and sometimes years,” Lauterbach said. “I don’t want another family to discover and deal with the pain involved in finding out that such an egregious act was performed to conceive their children.”

GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.

MORE FROM AUTHOR