An Ohio woman who sued a sperm bank after it mixed up donors and gave her sperm from an African-American man instead of the white one she and her partner selected said Wednesday that the family is simply trying to get compensation to deal with a situation they weren't prepared to handle.
Jennifer Cramblett, 36, made headlines this week after she filed a lawsuit against the Chicago-area Midwest Sperm Bank for wrongful birth and breach of warranty. Cramblett told The Huffington Post in a phone interview that she and her partner, Amanda Zinkon, wanted their child to bear some resemblance to them -- particularly Zinkon, who would not be carrying the baby. After hours spent poring over sperm donor profiles, they found a donor with blond hair and blue eyes who looked like he shared heritage with Zinkon. But they didn't get the sperm they ordered.
Cramblett, who spoke with her lawyer present, said that while it’s true she and Zinkon didn’t plan on a mixed-race child, “I would never, ever take that away.”
“We love her -- she’s dream come true,” Cramblett said of her 2-year-old daughter, Payton. “For people to think I don’t want this child because of her skin tone is just not the case. It angers me that people would even think I don’t want my child.”
But because Payton isn't completely white, Cramblett said the family will have to move away from their current home in Uniontown, Ohio -- a place she described as white, conservative and too racially intolerant.
“This isn’t LA or New York. We’re not on the coasts. We’re in farm country,” Cramblett said. “That raises my concerns [for Payton.] Being a lesbian growing up in a small town, I went through a lot of things that were hard on me. I don’t want her to have to go through that.”
Cramblett said a friend has spoken with her about his experience as a black child who was adopted by two white parents. Her friend felt "out of place" in his all-white community and "at 9 years old, he was praying to be white just so he could fit in." She is worried Payton will have a similar experience if the family doesn't move. "It sucks," she said.
Cramblett listed several other issues the family has encountered because Payton is half black. “I want her to feel very connected to all parts that that make up who she is. I’m not able to give her that part of heritage, and neither is anyone from her family,” she said, adding that some of her extended family is racially insensitive. Cramblett also said it's been difficult to figure out how to get her daughter's hair cut, and she has to drive far from where she lives and to an all-black neighborhood just so Payton can have her hair done properly.
Though Cramblett said no one has been particularly aggressive toward their blended family, even well-meaning comments about Payton’s appearance have led to uncomfortable situations. She is particularly wary of situations where people assume Payton is adopted, or start conversations about her background that Cramblett and Zinkon have not yet discussed with their young daughter.
The couple realized there had been a mistake when they tried to order more sperm from their donor, who was number 380, because they heard he had moved and would not be donating again. The plan was for Zinkon to eventually carry a baby, too, and the couple wanted their children to be biologically related.
But when Midwest Sperm Bank confirmed the order, Cramblett said they realized they had sent her sperm from donor 330, who was black, not donor 380.
Panicked and angry, Cramblett said she discussed the mix-up with her doctor and the sperm bank, but the bank eventually stopped taking her calls. Eventually, she received a typewritten note apologizing for the mistake and a refund for the vials from donor 330, she said. According to Cramblett's lawsuit, the sperm bank kept the money from previous vials that did not lead to conception.
“It’s hard to believe [the sperm bank] could be so careless with a decision that you took so much time and effort to make,” Cramblett said.
Cramblett’s lawyer, Tim Misny, told HuffPost that in suing Midwest Sperm Bank, the couple is seeking compensation for the costs of relocating to a new town and counseling. They also want to make sure that “the one mistake that should never be made [at a sperm bank] isn’t made again,” he said.
“This is not 1954. This is 2014,” Misny said. “Having a system where office clerks manually write down numbers with a ballpoint pen is scary-stupid.”
As for how the lawsuit might impact Payton when she grows up, Cramblett said, “She’ll know the lawsuit was about a company that had to make changes and give us compensation so that we can go through counseling and learn how to love each other even more.”