Two men have been found guilty of ‘providing sperm without a licence’. But is there a man in Britain who hasn’t done that?
How can it be a crime to ‘provide sperm without a licence or third-party agreement’? That is what two British men have been found guilty of, after it was discovered that they were acting as ‘sperm brokers’, introducing would-be donors of the white stuff to around 800 women who, for various reasons, could not conceive. Yet every man in Britain who has sex with a woman ‘provides sperm without a licence’ (unless he’s wearing a condom); what’s so different when there’s a middle man involved, a broker, who passes the sperm from the man who produces it to the woman who wants it? Any talk of ‘sperm’ and ‘licences’ in the same breath should set alarm bells ringing.
Nigel Woodforth and Ricky Gage, the two businessmen (or ‘fertility conmen’ as they have been branded by the tabloids), made around £250,000 from their ad hoc sperm-donation scheme. The press has gone all out to make the scheme sound as seedy as possible – it was ‘run from a basement’ for the benefit of ‘desperate women’; the two men first got the idea ‘over a drink in the Slug and Lettuce pub in Reading’ – yet presumably it involved men consensually donating sperm and women consenually paying for it and later injecting it. If Gage and Woodforth had been offering cut-price amputations or under-the-radar gall-stone operations, I could understand the outrage. But neither the production nor the ingestion of sperm is a serious medical procedure; men and women do it all the time in the traditional fashion, in beds, on sofas, in alleyways, far from the prying eyes of the would-be fertility police.
And yet at Southwark Crown Court in London last week, Gage and Woodforth were found guilty of providing sperm without a licence. They will receive their sentences this week. The judge has told them to expect to be banged up.
This bizarre case shines a light on the increasingly stiff (no pun intended) regulation of people’s fertility.