Tammerlin Drummond, The Oakland Tribune, Calif. –
Trent Arsenault was raised in Missouri in the heart of the Bible Belt — the son of an evangelical preacher.
Perhaps that helps to explain his missionary zeal in a pursuit that might be called “unusual.”
Since 2006, the 36-year-old Silicon Valley computer security specialist has been running a one-man sperm bank out of his Fremont home. Arsenault gives couples his sperm for free. They pick up the samples and use them to artificially inseminate one of the partners.
“They contact me because my sperm is fresh, not frozen,” Arsenault said. “It hasn’t been quarantined for years.”
Unfortunately, for Arsenault, his gift of himself has landed him in the crosshairs of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA, which regulates sperm banks, has issued Arsenault a cease-and-desist order. It states Arsenault’s Fremont “firm” is distributing semen and is therefore a “manufacturer of human cells, tissues, and cellular and tissue-based products.”
The FDA alleges that Arsenault did not take the legally required precautions to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.
He could be liable for a $100,000 fine and up to a year in prison. Arsenault is the first-known private sperm donor in the U.S. to face FDA sanction.
Arsenault describes himself as 6-foot-1, blond, and of German, French and Irish descent. He attended the Naval Academy but says he left before graduating to pursue a tech career in Silicon
He said he has fathered more than a dozen children of all races and has provided samples to the well-heeled in Atherton and the financially challenged in Oakland.
“I’m happy to help the rest of the 99 percent who aren’t so rich,” he said.
The eldest child born from one of Arsenault’s sperm donations is a 4-year-old boy. Four clients are pregnant.
The mothers often send him pictures of the children on Facebook and updates on their progress.
What would possess a man to want to father a child with a complete stranger? Free of charge?
There are men, it appears, who are simply obsessed with spreading their seed as widely as possible.
Consider this story just in: A former Alabama Republican gubernatorial candidate made secret sperm donations to women in New Zealand he had met over the Internet. He said he felt the need to have children but his wife, who’d had a hysterectomy, couldn’t conceive. The kicker is that the notoriously anti-gay Bill Johnson had been helping impregnate lesbians.
Arsenault, who is single and has never married, says his only motivation is to help childless couples who often can’t afford to pay thousands of dollars to a sperm bank and whose only other alternative would be for one partner to “go to a bar and have sex with a stranger.” Many of his clients are lesbian couples.
He markets himself on an elaborate website, www.trentdonor.org, where he displays everything from his personal background to his sexually transmitted disease test results to the organic diet that he consumes to keep his sperm vital and plentiful.
Arsenault vows to fight the order.
“I don’t see this as any different from any other couple in America that wants to have a baby,” Arsenault says.
Clearly, Dorothy, we are not in Kansas anymore.
I’m sure a lot of people find all of this very weird.
Yet my question is this: Why do we have a law that criminalizes private sperm donation? With all the budget cutbacks at the FDA, wouldn’t we be better served having inspectors focus on more pressing public health concerns?
If a woman wants to get a random stranger to father her child, why should that be anyone else’s business? People have gotten tainted sperm going through official sperm banks. The bottom line: There are never any guarantees with a sperm donor.
Under the FDA regulations, Arsenault’s sperm must undergo a series of tests to check for communicable diseases because it does not qualify for the “sexually intimate” partner exception.
If a man, for example, had a low sperm count, he could go to a fertility clinic and make a donation, which would qualify him under the “sexual intimate” exception. The clinic would then carry out tests to increase his partner’s chance of conception without having to perform tests for communicable diseases.
Arsenault’s Washington, D.C.-based attorneys are arguing that his contractual agreements with his clients make them “sexually intimate” partners.
Arsenault is seeking a hearing before the FDA commissioner to overturn the order.
In the meantime, he intends to keep making sperm donations.
“Maybe some of my techie genes will produce one of the next scientists here in Silicon Valley,” Arsenault said.