Indiana lawmakers back felony charge for doctors who misuse sperm

A woman who was among numerous patients unknowingly impregnated by their Indiana fertility doctor's sperm says she's pleased with state lawmakers' vote to back a proposal that would make such actions a felony criminal offense.

The Indiana House voted 93-0 on Monday in favor of a bill allowing felony charges in cases of deception involving a medical procedure, device, drug or human reproductive material, such as sperm, eggs or embryos.

Liz White was among the women whom authorities believe Dr. Donald Cline impregnated with his sperm, but prosecutors said they were limited on what charges he could face because no state law explicitly prohibited such actions. Cline was given a one-year suspended sentence in 2017 after pleading guilty to charges that he lied to investigators when he denied wrongdoing with perhaps dozens of patients from the 1970s and 1980s at his Indianapolis clinic.

White, her son who was fathered by Cline, and others whose mothers were his patients have pushed this year for the tighter state law.

White said after Monday's House vote that she was upset that Cline didn't face greater responsibility for his actions.

"I think now this so clearly does," she said. "If it were to happen again, then that person could be held criminally accountable."

The state Senate has approved a similar proposal, but agreement must be reached on a final version before the legislative session ends in late April. Both chambers have approved allowing Level 6 felony charges, which are punishable by six months to 2-1/2 years in prison.

Indiana University law professor Jody Medeira told lawmakers that California has the only state law she could find specifically against misuse of sperm by a fertility doctor.

Cline's case wasn't the first of its kind. In Virginia, Dr. Cecil Jacobson was convicted in 1992 of fraud and perjury for using his sperm to impregnate patients without telling them.

DNA tests have found that Cline is likely the biological father of at least 46 children born to his patients, said Jacoba Ballard, whose mother was treated by Cline and whose complaint to the state helped launched an investigation.

Cline, who retired from medical practice in 2009, surrendered his expired license to the Indiana Medical Licensing Board in August. The board voted to prohibit Cline from ever applying for a license in Indiana again.

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