Congressman Joe Morelle Acts To Combat Fertility Fraud

Government and Politics

February 9, 2023

(Washington, D.C.) — Today, Congressman Joe Morelle took action to strengthen women’s healthcare rights and protect families from fertility fraud—providing much-needed justice and closure for many local families involved in fertility scams. Congressman Morelle co-sponsored the bipartisan Protecting Families from Fertility Fraud Act which would help provide recourse for families impacted by fertility fraud and establish the crime as a federal offense.

“The fertility industry is severely underregulated, and this lack of oversight has led to abhorrent and unethical practices that have inflicted severe trauma on too many families,” said Congressman Joe Morelle. “Now that these crimes have come to light, it’s critical that we act swiftly to update our federal laws and ensure victims receive the justice they deserve. On behalf of the many families impacted in my community and beyond, I’m proud to co-sponsor this legislation and protect others from falling victim to this horrific malpractice.”

David Berry, local advocate against fertility fraud and son of a victim of Dr. Morris Wortman, said: “I am grateful to Congressman Morelle for his engagement around this issue, and for his initiative to act. As a product of fertility fraud, I am grateful that he sees victims and their offspring as not just tabloid fodder, but as real people dealing with the fallout of an act that is reprehensible yet still legal at the federal level. No woman should ever doubt the safety and sanctity of her experience with her fertility doctor. With Congressman Morelle’s leadership, I look forward to the day that we see perpetrators brought to justice while returning power and bodily autonomy to those from whom it was taken.”

Over the last decade, access to consumer genetic testing has revealed several instances of widespread fertility fraud in which medical professionals knowingly and inappropriately misrepresented the source of DNA used for fertility treatments. In many of these instances, the medical professional substituted their own genetic material and misrepresented the nature and source of this DNA to the patient. Unfortunately, the current criminal code lacks a sufficient basis for prosecution of these crimes and must be updated to protect future patients and provide justice for the victims.

In Rochester, three physicians began using their sperm to impregnate women in the 1960s, one of whom is still practicing locally. These discoveries were made through over-the-counter DNA testing, such as Ancestry.com, and to date, 17 individuals have been identified as unwitting children of Dr. Morris Wortman. In June 2021, two local doctors were found to have used their own sperm with patients.

The Protecting Families from Fertility Fraud Act would establish a new Federal crime under the Sexual Assault chapter for knowingly misrepresenting the nature or source of DNA used in any procedure that involves assisted reproductive technology. The crime would carry a maximum sentence of 10 years and provide restitution to victims of fertility fraud. The bill would also add this new crime as a predicate crime under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, providing potential additional avenues for victims to seek recourse.