The Dallas Morning News
A FERTILITY FRAUD bill won unanimous approval from the Senate on Thursday.
Measure pushed by woman from Preston Hollow heads to House
AUSTIN — Texas would make fertility fraud a new category of sexual assault under a bill that won unanimous approval from the Senate Thursday.
Championed by a Preston Hollow woman, the measure would make it a crime for a health care provider to implant human sperm, eggs or embryos from an unauthorized donor.
“As assisted reproduction technology becomes more commonplace, stories of bad actors have also become, sadly, more commonplace,” said Sen. Joan Huffman, a Houston Republican who is the bill’s author.
Huffman, a former prosecutor, paid tribute to Eve Wiley, the stayathome mom and licensed professional counselor from Preston Hollow who was the driving force behind the legislation.
“Eve’s courage in addressing the betrayal of her family and in bringing the predatory practices in her story to light has been incredible to witness,” she said, looking at Wiley, who sat in the Senate gallery. “Thank you, Eve, for standing up for your family, and for people you haven’t even met.”
Wiley has said that a few months ago, she learned that her mom’s fertility doctor actually was her biological dad. The doctor, whom she declined to identify, has acknowledged in emails that he is her father, Wiley said.
Testifying before a Senate committee last week, she said that the doctor “decided to use his own sperm instead of the sperm donor that my parents selected and consented to.”
Wiley said she and her mother, Margo Williams of Texarkana, felt violated after making the discovery through use of extensive genetic testing, genealogy research, interviews with relatives and communications with the doctor.
Wiley said she was almost as shocked to learn the Texas penal code doesn’t recognize fertility fraud as a crime.
On the Senate floor Thursday, Huffman said science has made great advances in helping infertile couples. New technology such as ancestry websites and social media also has enabled people to learn of some health care providers’ bad behavior, she said.
Wiley, who with husband Blake Wiley, an investor, is active in charitable causes, is part of two national Facebook groups and a burgeoning movement pushing for stricter penalties for providers who abuse their roles in assisted reproduction.
In Indiana, where former fertility doctor Donald Cline is suspected of using his sperm, not the chosen donor’s, with as many as 50 women, state lawmakers in recent weeks have debated a bill to create the crime of fertility fraud. Sponsors of the Hoosier legislation are said to be watching Texas’ effort closely.
According to Indiana University law professor Jody Lyneé Madeira, seven lawsuits have been filed over fertility fraud, from Virginia to California.
While the fertility care niche of America’s health care industry has insisted that errors and fraud are rare, Wiley said she knows of another Texas fertility fraud case that hasn’t been made public, as well as Facebook group members who accuse doctors in Colorado, New York, Oklahoma, Washington and Idaho.
In written testimony to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee last week, Indiana University’s Madeira said that “through their conduct, these physicians intentionally and maliciously wreaked havoc with the physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing of … former patients, their partners and their children.”
Huffman’s bill would make unauthorized, intentional implantation of “human reproductive material” a state jail felony, punishable by between six months and two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. The new offense could be prosecuted for as long as two years from the date the crime was detected.
“The crime may not be discoverable for quite some time,” Huffman explained.
Senate Bill 1259, approved 310, now goes to the House.