© 2024 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Illinois Senate passes fertility fraud bill

A doctor uses a microscrope to view a human egg during in vitro fertilization (IVF), which is used to fertilize eggs that have been frozen.
Mauro Fermariello
A doctor uses a microscrope to view a human egg during in vitro fertilization (IVF) that is used to fertilize eggs that have been frozen.

The Illinois Senate has passed a bill creating the civil offense of fertility fraud. Fertility fraud occurs when a health provider knowingly uses their own sperm or eggs in a fertility treatment without the knowledge or consent of the patient.

Curt Richardson of Bloomington-Normal helped draft the measure sponsored by State Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria.

Richardson’s story is similar to hundreds of other people across the state and nation who have lived most of their lives thinking the people who raised them were their biological parents.

“Fertility fraud is an issue that has been overlooked for far too long,” said Koehler. “This is a horrible practice that has gone unpunished. Illinois needs to join other states in taking a stand for those who have been affected by this horrendous act.”

Richardson said the effort is part of how he deals with finding out, as an adult, that he has about 94 half siblings.

"Trying to take some of that power back for victims for the mothers who have been violated and feel like there's nothing they can do to try to get some accountability against the doctors who have done this," Richardson said during a WGLT interview in January.

The measure headed to the Illinois House would allow civil lawsuits against health providers who commit fertility fraud.

"It does have a component for liquidated damages, or for actual damages. It would allow for punitive damages," said Richardson.

If it passes, Illinois will join Indiana, Texas, California, among others with such laws — 12 in all if Illinois approves the proposal.

"We've been going state by state and trying to get laws passed, for people to understand and be educated about what this says," said Richardson.

A lawsuit over fertility fraud and donor fertility fraud must be filed within 20 years and eight years, respectively, after the procedure, the child's 18th birthday, or the person first discovers sufficient evidence of the fraud. The bill also would entitle any child born from fertility fraud to access the personal medical records and health history of the person who committed the fraud. That provision is intended to address potential genetic conditions inherited by the victims from the perpetrator.

"I've talked to a lot of siblings and a lot of victims. Unfortunately, the laws haven't even contemplated this type of contact, let alone catch up to it," said Richardson.

A provision creating a felony crime of fertility fraud was removed from the bill. The thought is that existing sexual assault laws already cover the offense. Richardson said he would still like to see that clarified later.

The Illinois Fertility Fraud Act, according to Koehler’s office is the "staunchest legislation of its kind currently being considered." It is similar to legislation passed in Indiana in 2019.

Richardson also is pushing for federal fertility fraud legislation.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.