Ear Hustle

Sperm Bank Mix-Up Case Will Be Decided In DuPage County

A white Ohio woman’s lawsuit over an apparent sperm bank mix-up that led to the birth of her biracial daughter — and sparked a national race debate — will be decided in DuPage County.

Lawyers for Midwest Sperm Bank successfully argued the litigation, filed six months ago in Cook County, instead belonged in the west suburban county where the Downers Grove company is based.

In the lawsuit, Jennifer Cramblett said she became pregnant in December 2011 through artificial insemination with sperm donated by a black man, instead of a white donor as she and her same-sex partner had intended.

Cramblett, 37, said she learned of the alleged mistake five months into her pregnancy, when she called the sperm bank to reserve another sample from the same donor so her partner, Amanda Zinkon, 30, would have a child with a similar blood relation as the older sibling.

The mistake resulted, the litigation alleges, because the sperm bank keeps handwritten records and an employee misread the donor numbers. The couple selected donor No. 380 after reviewing the man’s 23-page profile but were instead given sperm from No. 330, according to the lawsuit.

A month after Cramblett said she learned of the mistake, the sperm bank sent her a typed apology letter and a partial refund check, the suit said.

The couple’s daughter, Payton, was born in August 2012. The child, now 2, is described in the lawsuit as “a beautiful, obviously mixed race, baby girl” whom her parents “love very much.” But, the suit continues, the error has caused Cramblett to live with “anxieties and uncertainty about her future and Payton’s future.”

At the time the lawsuit was filed last fall, the couple lived in Uniontown, Ohio, with a population less than 3,000, which Cramblett described as predominantly white and too intolerant to be a proper home for her daughter. The mother also cited as cause for concern her own sheltered childhood growing up in an even smaller town.

“Because of this background and upbringing, Jennifer acknowledges her limited cultural competency relative to African-Americans and steep learning curve, particularly in small, homogenous Uniontown, which she regards as too racially intolerant,” the lawsuit states.

It also says: “Jennifer’s stress and anxiety intensify when she envisions Payton entering an all-white school. … 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.”

After Cramblett filed the lawsuit, her story made national headlines and sparked an often-heated debate on race. Some commentators characterized her as a racist for pursuing a lawsuit, which included such terminology under Illinois legal statute as “wrongful birth,” and questioned how the mother will explain her actions to a grown Payton.

One of Cramblett’s attorneys, Thomas Intili, told the Tribune on Thursday that Cramblett sold her home and moved in with her mother in a neighboring community. He said she plans to relocate with Payton to a more diverse town after saving money.

Her lawsuit, refiled in DuPage County on March 24, seeks more than $50,000 in damages.

Lawyers for the sperm bank declined to comment on the strategy behind changing the venue to DuPage County, where juries tend to be more fiscally conservative. They are expected to file a response prior to a June 22 hearing before DuPage Circuit Judge Ronald Sutter in Wheaton.

Source: Chicago Tribune

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