Woman Sues FDA for the Right to Free Sperm

Illustration for article titled Woman Sues FDA for the Right to Free Sperm

The law doesn't require people to get tested for STIs every time they bone someone new, because that would be impossible to mandate and also a little creepy; it's pretty much expected that consensual sex-having adults make their bed so they can lie/sleep with partners in it, etc.


But the U.S. Food and Drug administration won't permit "informal" sperm donor transactions — under federal regulations, a donor must undergo expensive tests on his blood and urine in a medical setting within a week of every transfer. This poses a problem for lesbian couples and single women who can't start a family without sperm and therefore must pay hundreds of dollars to have their pregnancy multi-managed by the government.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a Bay Area woman is suing the FDA for her right to get pregnant all by herself — well, without paying for a fertility clinic or sperm bank's intervention, that is. The government accountability group Cause of Action, which is arguing her case, said in a lawsuit filed last week that the current rules are "costly and burdensome" and "unconstitutional to the extent that they operate to regulate noncommercial, sexually intimate choices and activity."

"There are many women in same-sex relationships and single women who aren't able to have their own biological child as a result of these policies," Rebekah Orr, a spokeswoman for Equality California, told the Chronicle. "For any parent who has had difficulty conceiving and anyone who dreams of being a parent, that's just heartbreaking."

There are some controversial characters that could also be aided by the legislation, like infamous Sperm Donor King Trent Arsenault, who donates his spunk to women he meets online — over a dozen of his offspring are running around across the country and seven other women are currently impregnated with his seed. The FDA warned him back in December to stop giving away his sperm or face hefty fines and up to a year of prison time. (He hasn't listened.)

But should women who can't or don't want to meet the future father of their children the "normal" way ("wasted in a bar" would apparently suffice in the eyes of the government) have to pay extra? "You may know your friend, but it is certainly possible your friend could not be telling you everything about what he does," said Mitch Rosen, director of the UCSF Fertility Preservation Center. That's true, but that's a risk we all take when we sleep with someone who doesn't show us primary documents that prove they're in good health. And sperm costs bank:

At UCSF, a physical exam costs about $300 and a test for infectious diseases costs $500, Rosen estimated. The tests would have to be done within a week before the woman took the sperm donation. If a pregnancy didn't happen, multiple tries could drag out the process for months. A donor could avoid multiple tests by freezing a lot of his semen, but each sample costs about $600 to freeze.


A bill that's currently pending in the state legislature would make it so that a donor would only have to be tested once if the recipient complied. Compromise! But that's not enough for Amber Abbasi, Cause of Action's chief counsel for regulatory affairs. "If there are donors ... who are not charging as a service, and not serving as a business, the FDA should not be intervening," she said. If the state won't give gay people the right to marry, will they at least allow them agency over their own pregnancy?

Woman sues FDA for right to use donor's free sperm [SF Chronicle]

Image via leedsn /Shutterstock.


Erin Gloria Ryan

I don't mean to sound heartless, but if a $300 exam and a $500 test is a financial burden, how in the world are these couples going to be able to afford to support a child once it's born?