Cecil B. Jacobson, the former Fairfax County, Va., fertility specialist who was convicted last week on 52 counts of fraud and perjury for using his own sperm to impregnate patients who believed they were receiving sperm from anonymous donors, maintains that he did nothing wrong and that he was only "trying to help these people."
Ironically the government, which claimed Jacobson fathered more than 70 children by women who came to his clinic because they desperately wanted babies, could not prosecute him for those acts because federal law does not forbid doctors from impregnating their patients. Prosecutors had to rely on commonplace mail and wire fraud statutes to obtain convictions, in effect resting their case not on the illegality of what Jacobson did but on the fact that he lied about it.
It is not unusual for prosecutors to pursue such a strategy in cases where either they have insufficient evidence to support more serious charges or in cases, like Jacobson's, which are ill-defined or completely ignored by existing statutes. The legal rules governing artificial insemination, a relatively new technique, simply had not caught up with current medical practice.