By Alex Temblador
For same-sex couples, it takes time and effort to create a family. There’s the question of whether to go with adoption, IVF, or surrogacy. Jennifer Cramblett and Amanda Zinkon of Ohio, a white lesbian couple, decided to go with IVF. After Cramblett and Zinkon chose a sperm that reflected a white, blonde-hair, blue-eyed donor so as to look like Zinkon, Cramblett was inseminated in 2011. Soon after being impregnated, Cramblett learned that the sperm that they had chosen was not sent to her. Rather she had received sperm from an African-American donor—her daughter would be biracial.
Upset by the sperm bank’s mistake, Cramblett decided to sue Midwest Sperm Bank in 2014 for $50,000 in damages on the terms of “wrongful birth” and “breach of warranty.” The case went in front of a judge last week. Before deciding to sue, the clinic partially refunded Cramblett and wrote a letter apologizing for mistakenly sending the wrong sperm.
However, the letter of apology and a refund was not enough for Cramblett, who said in a NBC News interview:
“Initially when we found out everything, I was more mad at the sperm bank for being negligent. I was upset at them for not caring about my feelings and my emotions. And kind of pushing me away and saying, ‘Sorry, we can’t talk to you anymore.’ No sorry, no accountability. Take ownership of what you did.”
Though Cramblett and Zinkon say they love their mixed-race daughter, Peyton (who is now three), their arguments in court included the “difficulties” of raising a mixed-race child. Cramblett lawsuit claims that she has a “limited cultural competency relative to African-Americans” and is undergoing a “steep learning curve.” Cramblett, claims she was raised to have stereotypical attitudes about black people and feared her family would not accept her child with African-American heritage. Apparently, Cramblett’s family are “loving,” but do not fully understand her sexuality, which she fears might extend into nonacceptance of her mixed race daughter (indicating that her family might have been more open/accepting of a full-white child).
Her attorneys also presented an example of how difficult it is to get their daughter’s hair cut: “As just one example, getting a young daughter’s hair cut is not particularly stressful for most mothers, but to Jennifer it is not a routine matter, because Payton has hair typical of an African-American girl. To get a decent cut, Jennifer must travel to a black neighborhood, far from where she lives, where she is obviously different in appearance, and not overtly welcome.” No examples could be found (or were presented) on how the people Cramblett interacts with when getting her daughter’s hair cut were not “welcoming” of her.
The couple also lives in a predominately white neighborhood and extended their concern with their daughter growing up in one as a mixed race child (and not a child of two moms), especially in terms of school:
“Jennifer’s stress and anxiety intensify when she envisions Payton entering an all-white school. Ironically, Jennifer and Amanda moved to Uniontown from racially diverse Akron, because the schools were better and to be closer to family.
Jennifer is well aware of the child psychology research and literature correlating intolerance and racism with reduced academic and psychological well-being of bi-racial children.”
Cramblett and Zinkon wanted to use the $50,000 in damages to move to a more diverse neighborhood.
The lawsuit also stated: “Jennifer was crying, confused and upset. All of the thought, care and planning that she and Amanda had undertaken to control their baby’s parentage had been rendered meaningless. In an instant. Jennifer’s excitement and anticipation of her pregnancy was replaced with anger, disappointment and fear.”
The lawsuit claims seem to focus on the “difficulty” of Cramblett and Zinkon raising a biracial child, which seems odd since Cramblett said in an interview in 2014: “I don’t find any problems with having a mixed race child as far as I’m concerned.”
After hearing the case last week in Illinois, the judge threw it out, agreeing with the sperm bank’s lawyers that the case lacked legal merit. The Washington Post reported that, “attorneys for the sperm bank had argued that ‘wrongful birth’ suits typically apply to cases where the child is born with a birth defect that doctors should have warned parents about; in this case, the child was healthy.” The judge also rejected Cramblett’s claim of “breach of warranty” because it does not cover sperm donations but did mention that Cramblett could re-file the suit as a negligence claim.
Unsatisfied with the judge’s dismissal, it appears that Cramblett will continue on. She will bring the case back to court in December as a negligence claim against the sperm bank.
In a 2014 interview with NBC News, Cramblett explains her need to hold the fertility clinic accountable:
“I will not let this happen again. You can’t just do that and say, ‘Well, you got a baby…you should be happy. Lesbian couple can’t get a baby anyways. You should be happy to have a healthy child.’ I am happy that I have a healthy child. We love her more to this day. She’s made us the people that we are. Never trade it for the world.
But I’m not going to let them get away with not being held accountable.”
Cramblett and Zinkon also said that they’re not worried about what their daughter will think of the lawsuit when she grows up. “She will understand that it wasn’t about, ‘We didn’t want you. We wanted a white baby.’ That’s not what it was about,” said Cramblett.