DNA Testing Kits Reveal Fertility Fraud

Curiosity in the modern age of easily purchased and self-administered DNA testing kits has uncovered a dark side in the fertility world, which has not only gained national attention in the past few years but has also inspired a Netflix documentary.  

Before sperm donor clinics were prevalent and the use of frozen sperm was common practice for artificial insemination, some doctors were secretly using their own sperm to impregnate women seeking fertility treatment.  For decades, these doctors were committing fertility fraud and violating the trust of the doctor-patient relationship with impunity.  Now, thanks to modern technology, the dark truth has surfaced, bringing with it shock, new half-siblings, lawsuits, and legislation.

Netflix Film on Rogue Fertility Doctor Spawned Federal Legislation

Earlier this year the Netflix documentary “Our Father” landed in the top 10 of most popular shows on the streaming platform, as the disturbing revelations of former fertility doctor Donald Cline’s fraudulent practices shocked viewers.  The documentary chronicles Cline, who artificially inseminated unsuspecting women with his own sperm in the 1970s and 1980s, and in doing so created dozens of half-siblings.

In 2014, when Jacoba Ballard, 42, took an at-home DNA test and her DNA was loaded onto the 23andMe database, she was shocked to discover that she had seven half-siblings.  Through her subsequent investigation, she soon discovered the true nature of what her mom’s fertility doctor had done.  As time passed and more people added their DNA to the database, the number of half-siblings continued to grow.  In the documentary, Jacoba reported that each time a new half-sibling popped up on the database she would think to herself, “I know that I am going to call them, and I am going to ruin their life.”  According to a message at the end of the documentary, the number of half-siblings stood at 94 and counting at the time of the production.

The documentary caught the eye of U.S. Representative Stephanie Bice of Oklahoma, who states in The Ripon Advance, “After watching the “Our Father” documentary, I was appalled that there has been no justice for the families who have been impacted by this heartbreaking situation.  It is imperative that we prevent these tragic situations from ever happening again and protect families from future predators.”

Now Bice and co-sponsor, U.S. Representative Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, have proposed a bipartisan bill called the “Protecting Families from Fertility Fraud Act of 2022, H.R. 8600.”  If passed, it will make the misrepresentation of the source of DNA a federal crime and will allow families to seek justice in the court system.  Although several states already have legislation in place for this type of fertility fraud, this new bill, if passed, would create a federal law making it illegal in all 50 states.  

Shedding Light on History of Fertility Fraud

Unfortunately, Cline is not the only case of fertility fraud.  Over the past several years, more than 50 fertility doctors in the United States have been accused of using their own sperm to impregnate women seeking artificial insemination, according to The New York Times.  Before the 1980s, sperm banks were not widespread, and the use of frozen sperm was uncommon.  It wasn’t until the ’80s when the AIDS epidemic hit that sperm banks took flight, and frozen sperm became common practice for testing purposes; until then, using a fresh sperm sample was the norm.  Nonetheless, there was and still is a major difference between a woman knowing that she is going to be using a fresh sperm sample from an anonymous donor she selected and/or approved and a woman unknowingly being inseminated with her own doctor’s sperm.

In April of this year, Westworld reported that a district court in Colorado awarded $8.75 million to plaintiffs in a case involving another former fertility doctor, Paul B. Jones, who also used his own sperm to impregnate women seeking fertility services.  Just like many others, Maia Emmons-Boring, 41, took a DNA test to find out about her heritage, only instead she found multiple half-siblings, which eventually led back to Jones.  After sharing the news with her family, she states in The Sun, “My mum wept and said she felt like she’d been raped.” This was the stark reality of it.  Female patients, who had put all their trust and dreams of motherhood in their doctors’ expertise, were lying in incredibly vulnerable positions in gowns on tables with their feet in surgical stirrups as their doctors were committing a profound violation of medical ethics.  Emmons-Boring goes on to say regarding the lawsuit, “my half-siblings and I filed a civil lawsuit against Dr. Jones and his clinic on the grounds of fraud, breach of contract, gross negligence, extreme and outrageous conduct, and medical battery.”


Intended Parents’ Trust Breached by Fraudulent Practices

Traci Portugal, founder of DonorDeceived.org, and a child born of this type of fertility fraud, states in the New York Times, “For some doctors, I think there was a disconnect between this being a medical procedure and the fact that they were creating and giving away their own children.  For others, they knew what they were doing was wrong, and they were able to hide their predatory sexual actions behind the use of anonymity.”  

What’s most startling is that these doctors were doing this under the guise of anonymity even though they were right there in the room.  Whether they really thought they were helping their patients, they had a “god” complex, or the violation of it gave them sexual pleasure, the audacity of their acts is appalling.  As the truth has come to light, these women who sought out help in order to have a baby will never be the same.  Their children’s lives will never be the same.  Morgan Hellquist, 36, another person whose biological donor turned out to be her mom’s fertility doctor, stated in The New York Times, “Everything I thought I knew about myself has been ripped apart and smashed to the ground.”  She went on to say, “The idea that that man’s DNA is in my children made me want to die.”  Now, these grown children must somehow find a new normal and learn to navigate a world with multiple half-siblings and the very likely possibility of finding more. 

The impact has been profound and life-changing for these families.  H.R. 8600, if passed, would not only hold unethical fertility doctors accountable for their past crimes, but definitively establish for current and future practitioners that fertility fraud is against the law throughout the United States and that they will be prosecuted for it.  This legislation would be an important step toward establishing guidelines for medical practitioners and in doing so will give uniform protections for women who seek to create families through assisted reproduction technology.





Richard Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015, received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension, and obtained her second Master of Science degree in Legal Studies from Loyola Law School. Peiya relocated back to her hometown, Beijing, China in 2019 and works from IFLG’s Beijing office. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University which he received in 2013, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. Luis has worked for IFLG in both Los Angeles as well as San Francisco, and is currently based in Dallas, Texas. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”


Kim has over 30 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

Los Angeles

5757 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 645

Los Angeles, CA 90036

Phone:  +1 323 331 9343

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

New York

501 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1900

New York, NY 10017

Phone:  +1 844 400 2016

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

Molly O'Brien

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.

Phoebe Sadler

Fertility law attorney Phoebe Sadler has a background in family law and has been practicing exclusively in the area of assisted reproduction technology (ART) law since 2018.

Rubina Aslanyan

Rubina has an extensive background in the legal field as a paralegal in Family Law and has worked in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 2012. Her area of focus is in managing and assisting clients with surrogacy, egg donation, and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s domestic and international clients. During her spare time, Rubina enjoys spending time with her family and dog Bella, traveling and cooking.

Alexander Espinoza
Legal Assistant

Alexander joined IFLG as a legal assistant in 2019, where he manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases. Alex is bilingual in English and Spanish and has been in the legal field for 23 years. Alex is excited to join the IFLG team and pursuing his will to help others in the reproductive law process. In his spare time he loves spending time with his family and friends, being outdoors, road trips, loves music and dancing.

Cara Stecker
Senior Paralegal

After receiving her paralegal certificate in 2005, Cara began working in assisted reproductive law. During the fifteen years Cara has worked in this field, she has gained a wide range of experience and knowledge that she uses to help better assist clients and those involved in the assisted reproductive journey. Cara’s primary roles involve managing parental establishment matters and coordination with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorney network, drafting contracts and parental establishment court documents and providing support to other team members. Cara finds great joy in being a small part of a team of caring people who help others achieve their dream of having a family. In her spare time, Cara enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, watching her children play the sports they love, and she enjoys, running, cycling and exploring the outdoors in the sun.

Stephanie Kimble

Stephanie received her BS in History and Political Thought from Concordia University Irvine in 2015 and her Paralegal Certificate from University of San Diego later that same year. She has been working as a Paralegal since 2016 in Family and Reproductive Law. She is excited to be part of International Fertility Law Group working on managing Surrogacy, Egg donation and Parental Establishment Cases.

Trish Pittman
Assistant Financial Coordinator

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of accounting, Trish joined the IFLG team in 2019 as Assistant Financial Coordinator. Her client-facing focus at IFLG is to assist with all client trust accounting. Trish is the mother of two daughters and enjoys spending time teaching and learning new things from them. In her free time, she loves long walks in the park and reading suspense and mystery novels.

Katie Deaquino
Senior Paralegal

Katie is a Senior Paralegal with IFLG and has dedicated over sixteen years to the areas of surrogacy and reproductive law. She received her Paralegal Certificate from Coastline Community College and has worked with some of the top law firms in the assisted reproduction community. Katie is also a commissioned Notary Public. With IFLG, Katie manages Surrogacy, Egg Donation, and Parental Establishment cases and provides support to other IFLG team members. Katie truly enjoys helping others build their families through assisted reproduction and is thankful she has had the rewarding experience of assisting IFLG clients. Katie often spends her free time with her Husband, four young children and her bulldog “Bella”.

Elsa Jimenez
Legal Assistant

Elsa joined IFLG as a Legal Assistant in 2019, bringing more than 35 years of experience working in the legal profession (concentrating in tort and litigation matters). At IFLG she assists surrogates with their surrogacy and parental matters. The oldest of five siblings, born and raised in East Los Angeles to Mexican immigrant parents, Elsa loves “seeing the beauty of families forming” through assisted reproductive technology. She and her husband Carlos have four children and one grandson. Elsa enjoys jazz and ’80s music, being outdoors in nature, collecting teacups and tea pots, and spending time with her close-knit family.