116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
By Rod Boshart, Gazette Des Moines Bureau
DES MOINES - Iowans who are victims of assisted reproductive fraud would be able to seek legal damages and perpetrators would face criminal charges under legislation adopted by Senate subcommittee members who heard 'mind-blowing” testimony Tuesday.
Senate Study Bill 1223 seeks to create a 'fraud in assisted reproduction act” to address circumstances where Iowans seeking help in getting pregnant instead were the victims of unethical health care providers who took advantage of their vulnerable situations.
Mark Hansen told members of a Senate Human Resources subcommittee Tuesday he got 'world-changing” news when DNA test results revealed his mother's doctor was his biological father.
'Needless to say, the news was shocking and the world as I knew it - at least my portion of it - was no longer true. In addition to my world changing, breaking the news to my mother caused considerable turmoil for her,” Hansen said.
At first, he said his mother did not believe the DNA results indicating the physician inserted his semen without her consent, but later he said 'her disbelief turned to feeling violated. I listened to my mother cry because she was sexually assaulted but I was the result. I wish that scenario upon no one.
'Fertility fraud comes in a variety of forms - doctor-donor fraud like my story, donor ID fraud where the patients ask for one donor but get another, donor background of medical history fraud where the donor isn't upfront about potential genetic issues, and then even fertility clinic fraud where records are incorrect or donations are used excessively,” Hansen told the legislative panel.
Traci Portugal, a Washington state woman, told subcommittee members she was 'the result of fertility fraud” by way of a San Diego doctor who deceptively used his own sperm during her parents' fertility treatment.
'The discovery has been devastating and has left me at times with severe depression,” she said, choking back tears. 'I often feel like I've tumbled into a black hole with no footholds and no knowledge of how to piece back together who I am, where I belong and how I fit into this world.”
In the process of researching assisted reproductive fraud, Portugal said she has found 50 cases spanning 23 states. At the same time, she said no U.S. doctor who has committed fertility fraud has lost his license, 'and this needs to change.”
Kara Rubinstein Deyerin of the Right to Know organization said the legal hurdles in assisted reproductive fraud cases 'have been huge” because the offspring do not have legal standing, only the patient. She said four states have adopted laws, and bills are proposed in Iowa and five other states.
'While I am happy I am alive, I'm disgusted he violated my mother,” Hansen told the subcommittee. 'Strict laws need to be enacted to ensure that similar actions are illegal and are not repeated. Please see that fertility fraud is defined and forbidden by state law.”
Provisions of the Iowa bill that proponents said still need work would create a Class C felony carrying a 10-year prison term and a fine between $1,370 and $13,600 upon conviction. The legislation also spells out provisions for legal causes of action for compensatory and punitive damages and a third-degree sexual abuse charge under certain circumstances.
Subcommittee chairwoman Sen. Annette Sweeney, R-Alden, said she thought the bill was necessary because there aren't provisions in Iowa law to address these situations.
'I've been around for a while here, and this has been one of the craziest things I've had to deal with,” said Sen. Mark Lofgren, R-Muscatine, who also voted to send the issue to the full Senate Human Services Committee for consideration.
Kelly Meyers of the Iowa County Attorneys Association said she was 'quite blown away with the stories” but as a former prosecutor could not think of any Iowa code provisions that would specifically apply in these circumstances.
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