An Ohio lesbian recently filed a lawsuit against a Downers Grove, Illinois, fertility clinic, alleging that it sent an incorrect specimen, leading to her inadvertently giving birth to a biracial child.
According to the complaint, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, Jennifer Cramblett of Uniontown, Ohio, engaged Midwest Sperm Bank in 2011 to provide sperm so that she and her partner, Amanda Zinkon, could have a baby. But, thanks to a seeming clerical error, the couple was sent the sperm of an African American man, resulting in a daughter, now two years old, of mixed race. Cramblett and Zinkon had selected a Caucasian donor.
Cramblett is asking for damages for wrongful birth and breach of warranty, according to the complaint, which says that Midwest Sperm Bank uses a paper-based filing system that led to her being sent a vial from a donor numbered "330," instead of "380," which she had requested.
"Midwest Sperm Bank committed the one error that a sperm bank can never commit: mixing up the sperm," said Cleveland-based attorney Tim Misny, who is representing Cramblett. "We have given them every opportunity to do the right thing. [But] Jennifer wants Midwest Sperm Bank to update their reporting techniques so that this never happens again."
The complaint further alleges that clinic officials cut off all contact between themselves and Cramblett when the mistake became apparent. Misny said that when Cramblett tried to make further inquiries about the background of the donor whose sperm was used, clinic staff hung up on her.
"We made several good faith attempts to negotiate a very reasonable settlement," he said. "Midwest Sperm Bank has taken an arrogant disdain to doing the right thing. Hence, we are in court."
Cramblett is suing for damages largely to finance a move away from Uniontown, Misny noted. "It's a very rural town in eastern Ohio, where there are no Black people. There are no biracial babies. … When Jennifer learned that she was going to have a biracial baby, she admitted that she was underwater. She was overwhelmed."
According to the complaint, raising a biracial child in Uniontown has been difficult. Family members, who have already been struggling with Cramblett being a lesbian, have been less than accepting. Misny said the couple has had few troubles with local townspeople, but they think their daughter would face less stigma in a more diverse community.
"[Cramblett] only wants to give her daughter a rich, diversified culture in which to flourish," said Misny. "There are some towns outside of ClevelandCleveland Heights, Shaker Heightswhere it's pretty common to see biracial kids and mixed race couples, and she wants to relocate there with her partner and her daughter, so when her daughter runs into preschool in the morning, she's not the only biracial child, and will have the opportunity to be exposed to her own African American culture, and flourish within it."
Misny added that Cramblett would also like money to help with cost incurred for ongoing counseling for the family. He pointed out that, in Ohio, a family adopting a child of a different or mixed race would be expected to undergo continual counseling. "We're asking that same standard be applied, and that Midwest Sperm Bank pay."
Cramblett has faced criticism from many quarters since filing the suit, as many commentators have suggested that it stemmed from disappointment over the race of their daughter, a charge that Misny denies.
"She loves her daughter with all her heart, and she should be commended for saying, 'I need to relocate, so I can find a better, diverse environment for my little girl,'" he said. "When you look at the facts of the case, what is fair here is to change the policies so that this doesn't happen again, and to get her compensation for counseling and to relocatethat is abundantly fair on all levels."