LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – During a time when the Michigan House of Representatives still has an equal number of Democrat and Republican representatives, some are seeking legislation that both sides can support, including increasing penalties for fertility fraud. 

Who is spearheading the legislation?

State Representative John Roth (R-Interlochen) is spearheading legislation that would criminalize fertility fraud, which entails deceit about sperm donors and details related to assisted reproduction. With the support of House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richland Township), he sent a letter to House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit). 

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“Leader Hall clearly outlined non-partisan issues that both sides should be able to get behind,” said Rep. Roth. “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.” 

What’s the purpose of the legislation?

The House Bills 4178-4182 would protect women and families by criminalizing fertility fraud. The plan would create two new felonies related to false representation and swapping out embryos according to Roth’s office, adding that the legislation also makes changes related to criminal sentencing, stripping a doctors’ license, civil liability, and the statute of limitations.

“Women in Michigan have been betrayed by doctors they trusted to guide them through 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.”  

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Rep. Roth intends to introduce them during the legislative session later this week. 

Origins for the legislation.

Last March, a constituent came forward to Rep. Roth sharing that she was the victim of reproduction fraud when her DNA test results indicated she was related to her mother’s fertility specialist, Dr. Philip Peven. 

“He had them choose a donor of their liking, then inexcusably abused his power and status by tactically disposing of said donor’s sperm, which were carefully selected,” the victim told Rep. Roth, “He would then inseminate his patients with a fresh sperm sample from himself.” 

Indiana precedent for fertile fraud penalties.

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A Netflix documentary released in spring 2022 titled Our Father, reveals a similar case in the state of Indiana, in which Dr. Donald Cline provided his own sperm sample rather than selected donors’; as of the summer of 2022, there were 90 individuals who had confirmed Dr. Cline was their biological father.  

While there is no current federal or Michigan law to make this act illegal, in 2019 Indiana passed Act Number 174, which makes it illegal for a fertility doctor to use their own sperm without the patient’s consent, and allows victims of the doctor’s, including spouses and their children, to sue them in civil court.