Reckless Rogue Sperm Donor or Altruist?

Just when I thought I’d heard and seen it all…

A man from the San Francisco Bay area has fathered 14 children in the last five years through free sperm donations to women he meets through his website — and is now in trouble with the federal government.

The case of Trent Arsenault of Fremont has drawn attention to the practice of informal sperm donation, which physicians and bioethicists call unsafe but some people say is a civil liberties issue…

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent Arsenault a cease-and-desist letter late last year telling him he must stop because he does not follow the agency’s requirements for getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases within seven days before giving sperm. The FDA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Violators of FDA regulations on human cells and tissues face up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine, according to guidelines published on the agency’s website.

Now, Arsenault states that he does get tested regularly, but even more compelling…

Arsenault says he donates sperm out of a sense of service to help people who want to have children but can’t afford conventional sperm banks. The 36-year-old minister’s son has four more children on the way.

“I always had known through people praying at church that there’s fertility issues,” Arsenault told The Associated Press on Monday. “I thought it would just be a neat way of service to help the community.”

Sounds incredibly reasonable, doesn’t it?

I mean, how many Don Juan types are out there right now, impregnating women left and right the old-fashioned way, and here’s a guy who simply wants to help people, and he’s facing a year in prison and a hefty fine?

His website is loaded with information about himself — his medical records, his lifestyle and diet, even a criminal background check — so it’s hard to argue that he’s being reckless. What emerges is a picture of a pretty extraordinary guy. He’s the son of a pastor and states he’s a churchgoer himself, and yet…

He says he believes his case comes down to constitutional issues of a right to privacy and reproductive choice.

On his website, he includes this quote from the Guttmacher Institute, and he emphatically added the underlining:

…women, in consultation with their physician, have a constitutionally protected right to have an abortion in the early stages of pregnancy—that is, before viability—free from government interference.

Now, it’s entirely possible that Trent will sell out and end up with his own reality TV show, but for now I’m inclined to admire him for his desire to do good.

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