Oklahoma Congresswoman Leads Charge On Fertility Fraud Legislation

The sponsors of legislation inspired by a shocking Netflix documentary on fertility fraud are working with victims to rally support for the bill. Oklahoma’s 5th District Congresswoman Stephanie Bice is the bill's lead sponsor.

Thursday, February 15th 2024, 6:16 pm

By: News 9, Alex Cameron


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The sponsors of legislation inspired by a shocking Netflix documentary on fertility fraud are working with victims to rally support for the bill. Oklahoma’s 5th District Congresswoman Stephanie Bice is the bill's lead sponsor.

The 2022 film, "Our Father," shows how a once-respected, Indianapolis-area fertility doctor, Donald Cline, impregnated dozens of women with his own sperm—without their knowledge or consent. One of his victims is leading an advocacy group that met with Bice and her colleagues Thursday at the Capitol. "I am Jacoba Ballard, I'm from Indiana...Donald Cline is my biological father," Ballard said during introductions in Bice's office.

It is the story of Jacoba Ballard -- and all the half-siblings she discovered she had through commercial DNA tests -- that threads its way through Our Father, which Congresswoman Bice told the group she had seen mentioned in a Twitter post back in May 2022. "So, I turned it on one night," Bice continued, "and an hour and a half later I was fuming mad."

The mother of two says she was angry, not just at seeing how Ballard and others were initially disparaged but learning that there was no federal law against fertility fraud. She says she decided then and there she had to do something to change that. "I can’t imagine finding out that the child that I carried and raised was not a product of my spouse and I [sic]," Bice (R-OK5) said in an interview following the meeting. "The sort of emotional toll that that takes on the family is pretty tremendous."

Ballard and a handful of other victims-turned-advocates were on the Hill this week talking up the bipartisan Protecting Families from Fertility Fraud Act of 2023. It was perhaps only fitting they finished their tour Thursday by visiting with the bill's primary sponsor and two co-sponsors.

In an interview, Ballard had a hard time putting into words what Bice's effort has meant to her and the others who are on this journey for justice.

"I’m eternally--I’m gonna cry...eternally grateful that Bice reached out," Ballard said, pausing for several seconds to regain her composure. "I had tried to get anyone to listen to me for years, because I’ve wanted a federal law, I want women protected."

There is some concern being voiced within the industry that a federal law could have a chilling effect and discourage sperm donors, but bill supporters say it should have the opposite effect because it will help develop greater trust with doctors and clinics.

The group also noted that some people are suggesting that this is no longer a problem, that the bad doctors -- 80 have been discovered so far, Ballard says -- are a thing of the past. "That is simply not true," said Democratic co-sponsor Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), a former federal prosecutor. "We are seeing evidence that this has happened as recently as 2023, so we’re still seeing evidence of this and we need to make sure that women and families have the ability to seek justice."

Advocates have been successful in getting laws in place in 13 states, but Ballard says criminalizing fertility fraud at the federal level is the ultimate goal. "And I really do have trust in our Representatives and Senators," said Ballard, "that they'll do the right thing."

Rep. Bice told the group that there now appears to be Senator, Alabama's Katie Britt, willing to champion the legislation in the upper chamber. She says they are making a few tweaks to the bill's language and should then have it ready for re-introduction in both the House and Senate.

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