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CNN Live Event/Special
CNN TONIGHT: Wolf: Errors That Happen Within The Labs Of Fertility Clinics Are A Major Problem; Allen: Elective Egg Freezing Business Attracts Every Woman Of Reproductive Age; Dr. Eyvazzadeh: Implications Of Being An Egg Donor Are Lifelong. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired September 05, 2022 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: All right, look at this. This is the sharpest video yet, of the Titanic, 8K, from a recent expedition. The extra detail, is expected to help scientists, study, how the wreckage decays, year by year, at the bottom of the North Atlantic. Also, it's just plain cool.
The CNN Special Report "THE BABY BUSINESS" starts now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The following is a CNN Special Report.
TEXT: A CNN SPECIAL REPORT.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A baby girl was born, this morning, in Norfolk, Virginia. She weighed 5 pounds 12 ounces.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Elizabeth Carr, is the first baby to be born, in the United States, who was conceived, outside the human body. Conception actually occurred in a petri dish.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST, CNN NEWSROOM (voice-over): In 1981, the birth of this child, Elizabeth Jordan Carr, made headlines, around the world, and launched the modern-day fertility industry, in the U.S.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since Elizabeth's birth, secretaries at the Eastern Virginia Medical Center's in vitro clinic have received between 600 and 700 phone calls, from couples wanting to join the waiting list.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Last December, Elizabeth celebrated her 40th birthday.
According to the most recent CDC statistics, an estimated one in six couples without children are infertile. It's no wonder that the number of people, using assisted reproductive technology, to expand their families, has doubled, over the past decade. I know what it's like. My husband and I tried, for three years, to have a child. Two miscarriages, and three rounds of failed IVF cycles later, I was emotionally devastated. Until 2005, when IVF worked, and my twins were born. And 13 months later, the bigger shocker, I was pregnant, with my third child, naturally.
Filled with gratitude, I began volunteering with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association.
JAY: Yay! Boom!
KAYLA: We've been trying for so long.
ALICIA LATRICE: I'm single. And I just know that I found the perfect donor sperm.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to carry my friend's baby.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my husband, Miles (ph) and he's pregnant.
PHIL (ph): Hi, my name is Phil (ph). And I have male factor infertility.
CHRISSY TEIGEN, AMERICAN MODEL AND TELEVISION PERSONALITY: When it came to fertility, as in love as we are, you can still not be the perfect partnership, when it comes to creating an embryo.
DOV FOX, AUTHOR, "BIRTH RIGHTS AND WRONGS: HOW MEDICINE AND TECHNOLOGY ARE REMAKING REPRODUCTION AND THE LAW": Infertility is, for many people, a source of great suffering. Responding to that suffering, it's also big business.
(CHEERS & APPLAUSE)
CAMEROTA (voice-over): And that business is booming. As women are giving birth later, the median age in the U.S., has risen to 30. That's three years older than it was three decades ago. And the fertility field continues to expand by helping all kinds of families.
FOX: This really is the medicine of miracles. It fills empty cribs. It frees families from terrible diseases. And it's not only different sex couples, who've struggled conceiving. It's also LGBTQ couples, and single people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tick-tick (ph).
HEATHER GOODMAN, FINANCIAL SERVICES BUSINESS OWNER: Do you think the balls are a little up and down?
CAMEROTA (voice-over): But with all of the incredible success stories, there are also tragic stories.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A couple is suing, after an embryo mix-up ended with them giving birth to a stranger's child.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A fertility clinic mistakenly implanted their embryo into another woman.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She thought she was being inseminated with a White man's sperm, so the baby would look like her partner. She found out she was mistakenly inseminated with an African American man's sperm instead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, there are calls to strengthen regulations on an industry that many Americans depend on.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Approximately one in every 50 kids, born in the United States, today, is conceived in a fertility clinic or lab.
ADAM WOLF, FERTILITY WRONGDOING ATTORNEY: The errors that happen, within the labs of fertility clinics, are a major problem. There's virtually no oversight, no reporting requirements, for when something goes wrong.
CHRISTINE ALLEN, EMBRYOLOGIST: The growth at this rate in an industry that is so complex, will always pose danger.
DR. AIMEE EYVAZZADEH, FERTILITY EXPERT: There should be more oversight, with everything that we do. But I really feel like it should be consumer-driven.
WOLF: We're in the Wild West Days, of the American fertility industry. The problem is that this is an industry, where one little mistake, can change people's lives forever.
TEXT: THE BABY BUSINESS.
DAVID GUNNER, STRUGGLED WITH INFERTILITY, DONOR VERIFICATION ADVOCATE: We were young couple, high school sweethearts.
LAURA GUNNER, STRUGGLED WITH INFERTILITY, DONOR VERIFICATION ADVOCATE: We were made aware of David's sterility before we got married.
CAMEROTA (on camera): You all were going through this in the early 90s. Did you know anybody else, who was struggling at that time, with infertility?
L. GUNNER: No, we weren't aware of a single person that had struggled with it. My OBGYN told me about artificial donor insemination. Honestly, it seemed like a miracle opportunity, for me, to carry a child, and for us to have a family.
D. GUNNER: We both talked how we'd like to find similar characteristics to who I was, blood type, height, weight, interests.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): As Laura and David Gunner planned for their first child, they narrowed down the profiles, and opted to pay a premium, for the lengthier, more detailed medical histories, of prospective donors. But it would take decades to learn that those records were virtually meaningless.
L. GUNNER: Yes.
D. GUNNER: No major illnesses, no mental health issues, no hospitalizations.
L. GUNNER: No.
D. GUNNER: It was just a picture of perfect health. Athletic and into the sports and smart. Donor 1558 checked every box.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): January 20th, 1993, their son Steven was born. He was everything they had hoped for.
L. GUNNER: Steven was always like a cuddly, cuddly baby. He walked early. He met all of his milestones.
CAMEROTA (on camera): When did you start to think that something was wrong?
L. GUNNER: We realized I think that something was simply not right. Started around age 15.
D. GUNNER: He went from--
L. GUNNER: Yes.
D. GUNNER: --from having a girlfriend, the--
L. GUNNER: Captain of the football team.
D. GUNNER: --the captain of the football team, until when he hit 15, and it almost like a complete change, and he started getting into trouble, with the law, using drugs, marijuana.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Years later, the Gunners would learn that marijuana could have triggered Steven's rapid mental health decline, due to a genetic predisposition, from his donor that they knew nothing about.
D. GUNNER: We reacted, like most parents, we tried to get him help--
L. GUNNER: Therapy, doctors.
D. GUNNER: By the time, he was 17, we had taken him, to his first rehab.
L. GUNNER: There were different doctors. And so, each one would present with the same question. "Is there a history of schizophrenia?" They didn't say, "Mental illness." They would say, "Schizophrenia." And we'd say "No, no, there's not."
D. GUNNER: Right.
CAMEROTA (on camera): So, they always asked you, if there was a family history. And when you said "No," and we even know the donor's history, no. And the doctors said to you, "That doesn't make sense." D. GUNNER: Yes, yes. And I was like, "Absolutely not." In fact, with the donor, they went back three generations. My wife's never. So, it always--
L. GUNNER: There's no history.
D. GUNNER: --the doctors would get confused, and then they would diagnose it as drug abuse, or oppositional defiant disorder.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): By age 19, Steven was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He spiraled over the years, in and out of psychiatric facilities, trouble with the law, violent episodes. But Laura and David never gave up, trying to stabilize him, finding the right doctors, balancing the correct medications.
Then, on May 21st, 2020, it all came crashing down.
D. GUNNER: I walked in the house, and could hear Laura upstairs, and I ran to the stairs. I ran out, and she's in the bedroom, and she's on the phone. And I kept whispering at her, looking at her going, "Where is he?" And she finally - she put the phone down, and she said, "He's in the morgue."
It turned out, through the medical report, it was fentanyl. Unfortunately, because of COVID, we couldn't have a proper funeral.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Steven Gunner had died of a fatal opioid overdose, at age 27.
After their son's passing, Laura and David recalled a group, they had heard of, years prior, the Donor Sibling Registry.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Well imagine if you knew your father only by his code, not by his name. Incredibly, that's a fact of life, for countless young Americans. They're the children of sperm donors.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wendy Kramer brought the teens together, through her website, donorsiblingregistry.com. She created it with her son Ryan, to help him find his own donor dad.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Laura joined the Registry, which was founded in 2000, and relies on people, to self-report, and share their own information.
L. GUNNER: I wanted to see pictures of Steven's siblings.
D. GUNNER: We missed him.
L. GUNNER: Yes. And I was hoping to see his smile or features, in somebody else. And I also knew that the other families needed to know Steven's history.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Laura connected with other parents, who had used Donor 1558, offering to share Steven's story with those who are interested. The Gunners would ultimately learn that their son shared a donor with at least 19 other siblings.
L. GUNNER: They had already been communicating about issues, they had concerns about, regarding their children, and they kind of connected the dots, with each other, long before we did.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): More than a year after their son's death, the Gunners learned shocking details about Donor 1558. He had also been diagnosed with schizophrenia. He had also been in a mental institution, before he ever donated sperm. And he had also died of an opioid overdose, at the age of 46.
CAMEROTA (on camera): Basically, the medical records that you were relying on, were not true?
D. GUNNER: Not true.
L. GUNNER: Were completely not true.
D. GUNNER: Totally not true.
L. GUNNER: There is no mechanism to check what the donor writes down.
D. GUNNER: It's an honor system.
L. GUNNER: It's an honor system. None of that information has ever been verified to be true.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Coming up, how the Gunners learned more, about their son's true medical history.
CAMEROTA (on camera): Do you know how many children have been conceived with your eggs over the years?
TYRA RYDER (ph), PROLIFIC EGG DONOR & GESTATIONAL SURROGATE: So far, the running count is 27.
CAMEROTA (on camera): That's a lot!
CAMEROTA (voice-over): After their son's death, Laura and David Gunner, were on a mission, to find out more about Steven's true medical history.
D. GUNNER: It didn't matter how hard we raised Steven, to be what he was, something came out that we couldn't stop.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): First, they connected online, with other families, who had used Sperm Donor 1558. And when one of those other parents, used a commercial DNA kit, on their child that led to Donor 1558's mother, their son, Steven's, biological grandmother.
L. GUNNER: I needed more information. So I wrote her a letter.
CAMEROTA (on camera): And what did you say in that letter?
L. GUNNER: I told her that we understood that we knew what she went through, and that we had no ill will towards her son. But I had questions.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Laura and Donor 1558's mother corresponded for months.
L. GUNNER: There were questions specifically on the self-reported donor history that had there been any checks, it would have been determined that it was not truthful.
Have you ever been hospitalized for anything other than a surgery? Donor 1558 wrote, "No."
It was revealed to me, by his mother, that he spent an entire summer, hospitalized in a psychiatric facility, when he was about 15.
CAMEROTA (on camera): And so, bottom line, he lied on the paperwork.
D. GUNNER: He didn't have a little history. It was incredible, the history of his issues.
L. GUNNER: At first, we thought that maybe this was just something that happened in 1992.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): While there are strict rules on fertility clinics, and accurate reporting of success rates.
GINA BARTASI, KINDBODY FOUNDER & CEO: The fertility industry there - it is highly regulated. Pockets of it are. Certifications and regulations and the lab audits that are performed, some of these ancillary services like sperm donation could use more regulatory oversight.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): The FDA requires that sperm is frozen, for six months, and tested for sexually-transmitted diseases, before being sold. But to this day, there are no other requirements, for verifying donor's health claims.
L. GUNNER: There was no law that was broken (ph).
D. GUNNER: What kind of business wouldn't love to be able to market a product that's not true, and then when they get caught that it's not true, just say, "Well, nobody said we had to tell the truth."
JILL TEITEL, REPRODUCTIVE LAW ATTORNEY: If there were regulations, we might have seen medical history, we might have seen a vetting process, by the cryobank, which we didn't see, and we still don't see.
D. GUNNER: The final attorneys that we talked to, said all you can do is to try to change the law. And that's when we said, hopefully, that's what we're going to do.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): From Albany, New York, to Washington, D.C., the Gunners are fighting for new legislation. Meanwhile, another family took their case, all the way, to the Georgia Supreme Court.
ALEX NORMAN, ONE OF THE ONLY DONOR-CONCEIVED CHILDREN TO EVER GO PUBLIC AND GO AFTER A SPERM BANK FOR FALSE RECORDS: There are so many different kids out there that have gone through the donor process, like I had, and I just want to be able to share experience and wisdom.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): This is 19-year-old Alex Norman, and his mother, Wendy, speaking to a class, on reproductive law, at the University of San Diego. Alex is one of the only donor-conceived children, to ever go public, and go after a sperm bank, for false records.
Much like young Steven Gunner, Alex's mental health spiraled in his early teens.
A. NORMAN: Growing up, we had gone through what felt like 100 different therapists, and psychiatrists, and medicines. And nothing was working. And I had been to mental institutions, and nobody knew what was going on.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): His older brother, Andrew, who was conceived using a different anonymous donor, vividly remembers the hardest times.
ANDREW (PH), ALEX NORMAN'S BROTHER: He would get really passionately angry, about something, to the point of threatening violence, or threatening violence against himself. He'd chased me, with a knife, several times.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Amid that confusion and turmoil, Alex began to wonder about his own genetics.
A. NORMAN: About 14-ish, like a lot of kids that age, I was trying to figure out who I was, got curious about my donor.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Growing up with lesbian parents, the Norman boys always knew they were donor-conceived. While older brother Andrew (ph) has never been interested in learning more details, Alex Googled his donor, Number 9623.
A. NORMAN: He had lied about a lot of things on his donor profile that my mother had used, and that I had used for medical information.
NANCY ANN GRACE, AMERICAN LEGAL COMMENTATOR AND TELEVISION JOURNALIST: A mentally-ill ex-con lies, to a sperm bank, creates 36 sperm bank children. He was a college dropout, and had yet to earn his bachelor's degree, despite claiming on his application, he was already working towards his PhD.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They learned that father donor 9623, he had previously been diagnosed with bipolar with schizo-effective disorder, a condition that can be hereditary.
WENDY NORMAN, ALEX NORMAN'S MOTHER: It is his donor. And how do I make it right? I'm a parent. How do I make it right? How do - and I can't make it right.
ANDREW (ph): So, I had to remind Alex that none of us know who this guy is, but we know who he is. And he's the best brother that I could have ever been given.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Norman, who is now an adult, sued Xytex for misrepresenting the donor, but was told he couldn't. That's because previous court rulings identified similar claims, as wrongful births. So, this February, they appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court.
FOX: Wendy and Alex Norman, and they are at the forefront of a legal challenge, to a doctrine, called wrongful birth. In half of the United States today, families can't even get in the courthouse doors, if reproductive misconduct was committed against them.
The laws, in those states, say, "You wanted a kid, and you got one." They say that letting parents sue, in these cases, would be like they're standing up, in court, and saying, they don't love their child, or wish that he had never been born.
A. NORMAN: I had heard the argument of it harms the child before. The way that it has always been for me is my mother loves me. She wants medical help, for issues that I am dealing with. It's not complicated, and it never has been.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Dov Fox is the law professor, who invited the Normans, to his USD class. He's authored a book, on the fertility industry, and is also the host of the Audible podcast, "Donor 9623," named for Alex's donor.
FOX: He was described as the perfect donor. His profile said he was a 6 foot 4 neuroscience engineering PhD student, who looked like Tom Cruise, had the IQ of Einstein. It turns out that much of it was untrue, and that the truth post really serious risks, for scores of families.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): The compensation, for sperm donors, can vary wildly, depending on location, and which bank is used. But some men can make up to $1,500 a month, for multiple donations.
For buyers, the price per vial could be anywhere from $500 to just over $1,000. And there are up-charges, paying more for a lengthier, albeit self-reported medical history, a baby picture, or an audio interview.
FOX: Donors are promised an easy, anonymous way, to make serious money. So, if they're healthier, if they have higher educational credentials, if they have a clean criminal record, if they even speak more languages, they're told that their samples are more likely to sell, meaning they'll be asked to come back, and make more money. So, it's not hard to see how the system, at least allows, if not invites, misrepresentations. CAMEROTA (voice-over): Those misrepresentations are at the core of the Normans' landmark suit. Similar cases had been dismissed, on wrongful birth grounds, until the case went before the highest court, in Georgia, in 2020.
PRESIDING JUSTICE DAVID E. NAHMIAS, GEORGIA SUPREME COURT: Just to be clear, what you're asserting? A sperm bank can completely misrepresent everything, about the sperm it's selling, and charge whatever amount of money, based on those representations, and completely lie to every customer, it has, and nobody can do a thing about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The court released its opinion, on the case, ruling families can sue sperm banks, for consumer fraud, if they lie, about their donors.
A. NORMAN: The ruling changed the way that reproductive law is viewed, throughout Georgia, and has caused a lot of cascade effects, in other states.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Xytex did not respond to CNN's request, for comment. Alex says he'll be filing his fraud suit soon.
Donor 9623 did not respond to CNN's requests, for this documentary. But he did speak to Dov Fox, on his podcast, in 2020.
CHRIS AGGELES, DONOR 9623: I know that they must feel like I betrayed their trust. And, you know, I think that's justified. And I feel terrible about it. I really do.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): For now, Alex has no interest in meeting his biological father.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I mean, we're cutting it close (ph).
CAMEROTA (voice-over): The booming business of egg freezing.
DR. FAHIMEH SASAN, KINDBODY FOUNDING PHYSICIAN: Come on in. Welcome.
There's cheese and wine and sparkling water. Help yourselves.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): It's one part cocktail party, two parts fertility education.
SASAN: Our fertility is 100 percent linked to our age.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Many of the women are in their 20s and 30s. And they're here, to learn about the biggest growth area, in the fertility industry, elective egg freezing.
[21:30:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there any of that deterioration during after it's frozen at all?
SASAN: Once they're out of our body and frozen, it's literally like pressing pause. So that egg will be 30-years-old, forever.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): The message is clear. Freezing your eggs at a younger age will boost your chances of having a baby later in life. And that messaging is being marketed all over social media.
DR. DAVID SABLE, VENTURE CAPITALIST: The growth of elective egg freezing? That's been growing over 20 percent per year. I guess, a cynic would call it marketing, and an idealistic would call it education.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We really want this retrieval (ph) to fall on Saturday.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): In 2012, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine lifted its experimental label, on egg freezing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I mean, we're cutting it close (ph).
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Now, tens of thousands of American women freeze their eggs every year.
KENDALL LONG, EGG FREEZING PATIENT: I was single, and 30, and I just thought I better do it now, because you never really know what's going to happen, in the future, with your fertility.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): The process is expensive. One egg freezing cycle can cost between $5,000 and $20,000, depending on medications, and where you live. And storage fees, are around $800, every year.
LONG: Thank you, thank you.
ALLEN: The infertility business targets patients with infertility. The elective egg freezing business attracts every woman of reproductive age.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Egg freezing comes with the potential risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. And only about 3 percent to 20 percent of patients go on to use their frozen eggs.
BARTASI: There's a high percentage of women, who freeze eggs, who may never need them.
CAMEROTA (on camera): Is the promise with egg freezing, ahead of where the actual science is?
BARBARA COLLURA, RESOLVE: THE NATIONAL INFERTILITY ASSOCIATION: Egg freezing is not an insurance policy. And I do believe that women are going into it, feeling it's as if it's an insurance policy, and that it's a guarantee.
GOODMAN: I had really focused on my career, from my early 30s. I had tried a lot of dating services, and I just hadn't met anybody.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Heather Goodman is the owner of a financial services business.
GOODMAN: So, I decided to freeze my eggs, right around 38. I absolutely felt like I had peace of mind. It gave me a new lease on life. Honestly, from a dating standpoint, well, maybe I should move to New York, and maybe I'll meet somebody there. It absolutely changed my outlook, and I felt a significant amount of confidence.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Four years, after freezing her eggs, Heather decided it was time to have a baby. She had one failed embryo transfer then another.
GOODMAN: I absolutely did not feel like this is the way it was supposed to work out. I thought I took the insurance plan.
EYVAZZADEH: So, Heather had gone to another clinic, and she had frozen her eggs there. And she learned the hard way that freezing eggs isn't a solution. There is no guarantee.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): After running out of frozen embryos and eggs, Heather turned to Dr. Aimee Eyvazzadeh. She's known as the "Egg Whisperer."
GOODMAN: I look at Dr. Aimee, and I said, "If you were me, and now I'm 44, what would you do?" She goes, "I'd use an egg donor, or adopt an embryo." And I said, "Adopt an embryo? Never even heard of adopt an embryo!"
CAMEROTA (voice-over): When another couple, in her practice, no longer needed to use their embryos, Dr. Aimee stepped in, and with the couple's blessing, offered them to Heather, along with the chance to meet the woman, who created those eggs.
GOODMAN: So, Tyra Ryder (ph) is my egg donor. And what struck me the most was that we kind of looked alike, five-seven, five-eight, had brownish color hair, olive complexion. She was so open, and so authentic. And I knew that if I could have a child, who represented a lot of those traits, it'd be amazing.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): That rare meeting is part of Dr. Aimee's overall philosophy, on sperm and egg donors. She believes that consumers should be demanding far more than the industry standards.
EYVAZZADEH: We should be asking for medical records of donors. There are more protections for you when you go buy a puppy than when you're picking sperm. A donor should actually want to go through a very strict certification process, where she has submitted, all her medical records, a cheek swab, for genetic testing, all her transcripts.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Critics say that additional donor verification can drive up costs, for Reproductive Medicine, and less anonymity could turn off potential donors.
EYVAZZADEH: I think it's worth the cost to give people the peace of mind that they're getting what they think they're getting. The implications of being an egg donor are lifelong. They're not lifelong, just for the donor, but also for the donor-conceived child.
GOODMAN: Boden Conley (ph) Goodman was born on March 2nd, 2018. He was 7 pounds 10 ounces, 20 inches long, at 10 AM, in the morning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mommy, I had to put them in (ph).
GOODMAN: It's funny I haven't thought about Tyra (ph) that much until recently, and she's amazing. I mean, Tyra Ryder (ph) is this wonderful human, who has a gift, and has the ability of fertility that not all of us have. And she has made so many families, and people, happy, and complete.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Coming up, I sit down with Tyra Ryder (ph), the prolific egg donor, and gestational surrogate, who has 27 known genetic children, and counting.
RYDER (ph): Do you see any birds?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
RYDER (ph): Oh, I see Jays.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): This is 38-year-old Tyra Ryder (ph). Over the years, she's had many jobs, from bartending, to logging, to selling timeshares. But nothing compares to her work in the fertility field.
RYDER (ph): People find me interesting.
CAMEROTA (on camera): Do you know how many children have been conceived with your eggs over the years?
RYDER (ph): So far, the running count is 27.
CAMEROTA (on camera): 27 children?
RYDER (ph): Genetic that we know of, but that was a few years ago.
CAMEROTA (on camera): That's a lot.
RYDER (ph): They have embryos on ice that they can use at any given time.
CAMEROTA (on camera): What do you think would most surprise people to learn about egg donation?
RYDER (ph): The lack of regulation, the ability for me to have dozens and dozens and dozens of children, in all the same cities. CAMEROTA (voice-over): The American Society of Reproductive Medicine's practice guidelines limit an egg donor, to six cycles, in their lifetime. And there are suggested caps, on offspring, from an individual sperm or egg donor.
EVE WILEY, FERTILITY INDUSTRY REFORM ADVOCATE: The American Society of Reproductive Medicine, they have a recommendation. 25 offspring per 800,000 people in the population.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): So, doing that math, in the Greater Bay Area, in California, with the population around 7.5 million, the hypothetical limit, for one donor, who followed ASRM's guidelines, could be as high as 234 children.
Dr. Jaime Shamonki, is the Chief Medical Officer, for California Cryobank, one of the largest sperm banks, in the world.
DR. JAIME SHAMONKI, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, CALIFORNIA CRYOBANK: Back in the 80s and 90s, sperm banks served a community. And it's really something that I think was hard to imagine a world, in which we could ship sperm to 40 countries.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): But the bigger issue?
EYVAZZADEH: The guidelines aren't enforceable, they're just not.
SHAMONKI: At the end of the day, a business has the right to adopt those guidelines, or not adopt those guidelines. They're not laws.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): By Tyra's (ph) count, she's done 14 egg retrieval cycles, over seven years, with different clinics, around the country.
CAMEROTA (on camera): How many eggs did you normally produce in one cycle?
RYDER (ph): My first time was 38.
CAMEROTA (on camera): So, you got 38 eggs? I can't begin to tell you, as someone who struggled through this, that's like hitting the lottery!
RYDER (ph): I had one donation that was 80 eggs. And then, my last donation was 98.
CAMEROTA (on camera): Oh my heavens! That is unheard of!
CAMEROTA (voice-over): About 60 percent of retrieved eggs mature enough to be frozen. And on average, patients aged 35 and younger, freeze 15 eggs per cycle, while a patient, over 40, freezes less than half of that.
Dr. Aimee Eyvazzadeh advised Tyra (ph) to stop at age 32.
CAMEROTA (on camera): Why did Dr. Aimee put the brakes on it?
RYDER (ph): I think she's aware that long-term, it could have some serious effects.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Also, in the long-term, Tyra (ph) is in touch, with some donor families, and remains open to others.
RYDER (ph): I had the privilege to bring them into the world. And if they want to get to know me, I want to know who they are.
CAMEROTA (on camera): When you see the pictures of the children that were created from your eggs, is there ever a pang of "That's my child!"
RYDER (ph): Yes, but it's just a very like, proud moment, like, "Oh, they're so cute!"
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Retired from egg donation, at age 32, Tyra (ph) was soon presented, with her next opportunity, in the fertility field.
RYDER (ph): The agency came to me, and said, "What would you think of carrying a baby for someone?" And the more I got to thinking about it, and learning about the intended parent, I went, "I can help someone else." It's just a lot more time and consideration.
CAMEROTA (on camera): It's not just 10 days. It's nine months.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Tyra (ph) had been pregnant before, at age 17.
RYDER (ph): Family friends of mine that couldn't conceive for years and years got to adopt my son, in an open adoption. Never in my mind, did I regret it, or wish I would have done it differently.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Why didn't you want to have a child of your own that you raised?
RYDER (ph): I felt fulfilled being an aunt. And I'm lucky enough, now, to be a stepmom. I'm fulfilled with other people's kids.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): As a gestational surrogate, Tyra (ph) carried and gave birth to three children, over the course of six years, none of whom shared her genetics.
CAMEROTA (on camera): Did you enjoy the experience of being pregnant?
RYDER (ph): I loved it. I was still bartending, really enjoying myself, living my everyday life, paddleboarding, hiking, dating.
CAMEROTA (on camera): Hold on a second. Explain that process.
RYDER (ph): If you meet somebody intelligent enough to realize, "Well, this isn't your child. In three or four months, you will no longer be pregnant, and you will not be raising a baby, you're just working, this is your job," and the person I found, I married, and he got it. He understood.
CAMEROTA (on camera): When you did all those cycles, did it feel like a business decision?
RYDER (ph): Yes and no. I was always financially comfortable. And that's another thing. They make sure that you're not on any welfare, food stamps, struggling to make ends meet. This should be extra income.
CAMEROTA (on camera): Are there official rules on who can be a surrogate?
JENNIFER WHITE, CO-FOUNDER, REPRODUCTIVE ALLIANCE: The American Society for Reproductive Medicine puts out guidelines, but they're not hard and fast rules.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Jennifer White co-founded the Reproductive Alliance. Its goal is to launch an accreditation body, for surrogacy agencies. She's also an agency owner.
CAMEROTA (on camera): How difficult is it to open a surrogacy agency?
WHITE: Not at all. You can stand out on the street corner, and say "I'm a surrogacy agency."
CAMEROTA (on camera): That's alarming!
WHITE: Yes, it is. There is nothing that provides any oversight.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): While some states require that agencies obtain a business license, there are no other requirements, to create a surrogacy agency, which is responsible for finding surrogates, screening their medical history, matching them with intended parents, and brokering the legal and financial transaction.
RYDER (ph): If you go online, and you want to find an agency, it is impossible to know what a good one is, what a bad one is, what kind of reputation they have.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): High risks, for high costs. The surrogacy process can cost intended parents upwards of $60,000 (ph) to $200,000, or more, depending on the circumstances.
CAMEROTA (on camera): How do you see the fertility industry? Would you make changes from everything that you've lived through?
RYDER (ph): I would love to see more long-term research on what us women, are putting our bodies through. Yes, a lot of amazing little children came of it that are perfectly healthy. But what is this going to cost me, in another 10 years or 20 years?
WILEY: This is me, before ballet recital.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): This is Eve Wiley. She's known, she was donor- conceived, since her teens. WILEY: Donor 106. And this is dad, this is Steve, who I've called dad, for 14 years, 15 years now.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): But she uncovered the disturbing truth, four years ago. When her young son fell ill, she turned to a commercial DNA kit, to learn more, about their medical history.
WILEY: I discovered that my biological father was actually my mom's fertility doctor, and not the sperm donor that they selected, and consented to.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Shockingly, Eve was not the only one. She found at least a dozen half-biological siblings, all through that doctor.
WILEY: This really maps out of where I am, in this family tree. So here, you can see all the people that I'm connected to. These are just the people that have tested.
CAMEROTA (on camera): When this happened to you, and you got this bombshell that in fact, your mom's doctor, was your biological father, did you consider a criminal case against him?
WILEY: I called attorneys. And they tried to find a criminal path. They tried to find a civil course of action. There wasn't one.
So, this is my half-sister, Jessica.
CAMEROTA (on camera): I would think that your story is so rare. It's a one off. This never happens.
What have you learned?
WILEY: In the three years that I've been at this, I've identified over 60 doctors (ph), and these are just people, who have come to me, and connected with me.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): One of those people is Jacoba Ballard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACOBA BALLARD, FEATURED IN NETFLIX'S "OUR FATHER": Most of you know, we really didn't get justice in the courtroom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Whose story is documented in Netflix's "Our Father," about an Indiana doctor who secretly fathered at least 87 children.
WILEY: In 2018, when I found this out, California was the only state that had any sort of fertility fraud law. And I was shocked. So, I decided to go with legislation, and really make this about changes, and not about charges.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): And that change has begun. In at least 10 states, it's now a crime, for a doctor, to use any donor material, without the patient's explicit consent. And there's a federal bill on the table.
WILEY: It would allow them to prosecute a doctor with a maximum of 10- year prison sentence.
CAMEROTA (on camera): How difficult is it to get legislation passed?
WILEY: Clinics and industry, they don't want regulations, because they are just operating so smoothly, at this point.
I really do believe that commercial DNA testing has fixed this problem. A doctor probably wouldn't do this, because the chance of getting caught, is very high. But laws can do more than just pass a bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILEY: All right, go get it, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILEY: It's a Trojan horse, to talk to legislators, about the larger problems. I am giving them the education. I am giving them the terminology, the language, to talk about this. Technology is taking off, and our laws are staying the same. And so, we are going to get a bigger gap, and a bigger gap, and a bigger gap.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Coming up, a victory for Laura and David Gunner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHRIS JACOBS (R-NY): Good morning, I want to especially thank Laura and David Gunner, for being here.
L. GUNNER: Donors self-report, banks self-regulate. This was the standard in 1992, and nothing has changed since then.
JACOBS: That is why I am introducing today, Steven's Law. This legislation would require sperm banks, to verify medical records, from potential donors, and disclose all relevant information, to recipients.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA (voice-over): The Gunners are pushing for change on all fronts, Steven's Law, on the federal level, and the Donor-Conceived Persons Protection Act, in New York State.
L. GUNNER: I simply want parents to be able to make the decision on accurate and truthful information on whole knowledge.
SHAMONKI: A degree of oversight that is enforceable is a good thing. CAMEROTA (voice-over): While many in the industry say they recognize the need for more robust donor-screening, and consumer protections?
SHAMONKI: What is in the Gunner bill is not the right answer to that problem.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Critics say that legislation, such as the Gunners', will make fertility medicine more expensive, and decrease access.
SHAMONKI: You may inadvertently drive up the cost of producing a vial of sperm, or it may even put some of the smaller sperm banks, out of business, which given the fact that we currently have a shortage of sperm donors, in the U.S., I think, is really bad for - bad for families.
WOLF: American medicine has been around for centuries, and we've had a long time, for laws and regulations to develop around that. The IVF industry, Big Fertility, has been around for a few decades.
My hope is that we're now entering a time, where the regulations, the supervision can catch up. Because what we've seen, over the last decade or so, is when you don't have regulations, when you don't have oversight, when problems happen, it can be traumatic.
L. GUNNER: My hopes for this legislation is obviously that it gets passed, and our son is remembered.
D. GUNNER: It's hard. We can't bring our son back. But we can at least, in his memory, hope for some change.
TEXT: NEW YORK STATE SENATE BILL S7602A "DONOR CONCEIVED PERSON PROTECTION ACT" IS BEING CONSIDERED BY THE STATE LEGISLATURE.
H. R. 8307 "STEVEN'S LAW" WAS INTRODUCED BY REP. JACOBS IN JULY 2022. HE LEAVES OFFICE IN JANUARY 2023.
THE GUNNERS SAY THEY'LL DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO GET THE LEGISLATION PASSED.