CHICAGO (CN) – A Chicago sperm bank gave an Ohio lesbian couple sperm vials from the wrong donor, who was black rather than white, and they face the difficulty of raising a biracial child in small-town Ohio, the couple claims in court.
Jennifer Cramblett sued Midwest Sperm Bank on Sept. 29 in Cook County Court.
Cramblett lives with her partner, Amanda Zinkon, in Uniontown, Ohio, pop. 2,802. Uniontown is approximately 98 percent white, according to the 2000 census.
In 2011, Cramblett and Zinkon decided to start a family, and were recommended Midwest Sperm Bank for donor sperm by their fertility doctor, Dr. Nicholas Spirtos.
The couple spent a week researching donor profiles, looking for a donor with genetic traits similar to them. They chose donor number 380, and ordered vials of sperm from Midwest by telephone.
Cramblett became pregnant in December 2011.
“On April 23, 2012, Jennifer called the defendant from work to order eight more vials of Donor No. 380’s sperm, because she and Amanda were still planning to have another child, they had saved enough money, and because they had heard that their donor had moved and was no longer donating.
“When Jennifer called the defendant to order additional sperm, she spoke to the same receptionist as before. The receptionist remembered Jennifer from the previous September. The receptionist asked Jennifer to hold while her file was retrieved. When she returned, the receptionist said, ‘Okay, you want eight vials of sperm from Donor No. 330.’ Jennifer replied, ‘No, I said we need eight vials of No. 380.’ Jennifer was put on hold again for what seemed to her like an eternity.
“When the receptionist returned for the second time, she asked Jennifer if she had requested an African American donor to which she replied, ‘No, why would I request that? My partner and I are Caucasian. You know that from our profiles.’ She was placed on hold again. Finally, she was told that Dr. Spirtos had been sent vials of sperm from Donor No. 330, and that Midwest Sperm Bank would have to ‘call to confirm.’ Jennifer hung up immediately and called Dr. Spirtos.
“Dr. Spirtos’ secretary, Sandra, answered Jennifer’s call. She could hear the concern in Jennifer’s voice. Jennifer asked Sandra to check the remaining vial, the one Jennifer planned to use in January 2012, to determine whether or not it was from Donor No. 380. After checking the vial, Sandra informed Jennifer that she had become pregnant on December 11, 2011, by Donor No. 330.
“About an hour later, Dr. Spirtos called Jennifer to confirm the mistake, to apologize, and to ask how she was doing. Jennifer was crying, confused, and upset. All of the thought, care and planning that she and Amanda had undertaken to control their baby’s parentage had been rendered meaningless. In an instant, Jennifer’s excitement and anticipation of her pregnancy was replaced with anger, disappointment and fear,” the complaint states.
Cramblett says she tried to call Midwest back, but the sperm bank hung up on her. She says she received an apology letter the next month, and a refund check for some, but not all of the vials of incorrect sperm.
“In the months that followed, Jennifer learned the reason for the defendant’s error: its records are not electronic. They are kept in pen and ink. To the person who sent Jennifer vials of sperm in September 2011, the number ‘380’ looked like ‘330,’ and there are no redundancies to catch errors like the one the defendant made with respect to Jennifer Cramblett,” she says.
Cramblett gave birth to Payton, now 2, in August 2012, and “she and Amanda love her very much. Even so, Jennifer lives each day with fears, anxieties and uncertainty about her future and Payton’s future. Jennifer admits that she was raised around stereotypical attitudes about people other than those in her all-white environment. Family members, one uncle in particular, speaks openly and derisively about persons of color,” Cramblett claims.
Her family struggled to accept Cramblett’s homosexuality, and Payton faces similar prejudice in Uniontown, which Cramblett believes is too racially intolerant for a biracial child.
“Jennifer’s stress and anxiety intensify when she envisions Payton entering an all-white school. Ironically, Jennifer and Amanda moved to Uniontown from racially diverse Akron, because the schools were better and to be closer to family. Jennifer is well aware of the child psychology research and literature correlating intolerance and racism with reduced academic and psychological well-being of biracial children.
“Based upon the aforementioned facts and circumstances, all of Jennifer’s therapists and experts agree that for her psychological and parental well-being, she must relocated to a racially diverse community with good schools,” the complaint states.
Cramblett seeks damages for wrongful birth and breach of warranty.
She is represented by Thomas Intili with Intili & Groves in Dayton, with assistance from local counsel Jovan Ostojic with Ostojic & Scudder.
Cramblett is the only plaintiff, though two lines under her name are totally blacked out in the header of the lawsuit.
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