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Iowa lawmakers consider bill to make fertility fraud a crime

DES MOINES — An Iowan who says he discovered a “world changing” truth about his conception is urging Iowa legislators to make fertility fraud a crime. Mark Hansen says he wishes this scenario on no one.

“In 2014, with a 23andMe over-the-counter DNA test, my suspicions were confirmed that my mother’s doctor was indeed my biological father,” Hansen says.

Hansen’s mother was devastated.

“At first she refused to believe I was the doctor’s son,” Hansen says. “After explaining the scientific side of DNA tests and the relative matches I found on 23andMe, her disbelief changed to feeling violated.”

There are a variety of forms of fertility fraud, according to Hansen.

“Doctor-donor fraud, like my story; donor ID fraud where the patients ask for one donor and get another; donor background or medical history fraud where the donor isn’t upfront about potential genetic issues,” Hansen says. “and then even fertility clinic fraud where records are incorrect or donations are used excessively.”

Hansen testified Tuesday at an Iowa Senate subcommittee hearing on a bill that would create criminal penalties for “assisted reproductive fraud.” Hansen told senators it would give him legal standing to sue — which he does not have now. A representative of the Iowa County Attorneys Association agreed with that assessment, and said she was “quite blown away by the stories” Hansen and others shared with legislators.

Two women from Washington state described getting the results from a DNA test kit and learning the family history they thought they knew was not accurate. Traci Portugal said her parents, who sought fertility treatments in California, were defrauded.

“My discovery has been devastating and has left me at times with severe depression,” an emotional Portugal said, pausing mid-sentence to compose herself.

Portugal told Iowa legislators laws are being considered in states like Nebraska, Colorado and Ohio to make fertility fraud a crime. Indiana was the first to act after a retired Indiana doctor was fined $500 and lost his medial license, but faced no other legal consequences. He is believed to be the father of at least 50 of his patient’s children who discovered they were siblings after taking an Ancestry.com test.

“Mark, I know it was tough today,” Senator Annette Sweeney, a Republican from Alden, said as she addressed Hansen and others who testified at today’s hearing. “You guys have hung in there…Let’s think positive thoughts.”

Sweeney and a colleague voted to make the bill eligible for consideration in a senate committee.

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