Fertility Doctor Impregnated Patients with His Own Sperm — and Biological Children Are Speaking Out
In 2018, retired detective Wendi Babst finally got around to sending in a commercial DNA test kit she’d bought the year before to find out more about her roots.
The results left her thunderstruck.
Babst learned she had half-siblings she'd never heard about. And she learned the man who raised her wasn't her biological father.
That man, she found out, was the late Dr. Quincy Fortier, the renowned fertility specialist her mother had gone to see in Las Vegas, Nevada, decades earlier.
“I was so angry with him,” Babst, 54, of Oregon, tells PEOPLE. "All I could picture was my sweet little mom. That broke my heart worse than anything.”
Babst was not alone. Over the course of four decades, Fortier, a noted OB/GYN who died in 2006 at 94, impregnated dozens of other women using his sperm without their knowledge or consent, Babst painstakingly learned as she tracked down her newfound siblings.
Her story — and how Fortier betrayed his patients' trust as a cutting-edge fertility doctor — are explored in-depth in the upcoming HBO documentary, Baby God, airing Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET.
Directed by Hannah Olson and executive produced by Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, the disturbing film follows Babst as she uncovers the breadth of Fortier’s deception.
“Do you want to say your father was a monster?" Babst says in the film. "And what does that say about you?”
Since Babst began looking into her still-blossoming family tree, she learned that she has 23 half-siblings throughout the country, whose ages range from 30-something to 70-something.
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The documentary includes interviews with Fortier’s family members and colleagues as well as patients he impregnated without their knowledge or consent, including Babst’s mother, and some of his children who are learning who their biological father really is.
Like his half-sister, Brad Gulko, who has a PhD in human genomics and population genetics, was blindsided when he learned that Fortier is his biological father.
"On the one hand, because of my academic background, I have a little more balanced perspective about genetics being destiny," he says. "I feel like genomics is a predisposition, but it's not destiny.
"But I also realized in that moment, 'Oh my goodness, this isn't an abstract thing, this is me. This has happened to me. And I now have an entirely different branch of the family I have to consider. And I don't know how my father's branch of the family will consider me.'"
A matter of ‘power, control’
A longtime producer on the PBS show, Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Olson came up with the idea for a documentary on Fortier after filming an episode with rap superstar LL Cool J when he realized the man he called his grandfather was not his biological grandfather.
“I started to wonder what that might feel like for a person,” she says. “Midway through life, to realize that the man who raised you or who you thought was your father is actually not your biological father. And then, does it matter?
“So often, crime stories focus on the perpetrator and the crime and not what happens afterward. In this case, I really wanted to show the victims of this particular crime and how painful, circuitous, and unfinished that journey is. In this case, because it's a genetic crime, it goes on forever and ever and ever.”
Olson also delves into Fortier’s motives for fathering so many children in the way he did.
“I also think he never thought he would be found out. It was a perfect crime in a lot of ways, but I also think it was a crime of convenience. It's important to remember that there were no frozen sperm then, and there were no sperm banks.”
Babst has her own thoughts on Fortier’s motives.
“I think it was a power, control [issue],” she says. “I think he had curiosity. I honestly think he was experimenting to a degree and had for many years. I think he had some sense that he was helping people, but for his own narcissistic reasons — helping people on the way to fulfilling his other achievements.”
Her advice for anyone out there who is thinking about using a DNA test to find out more about their family tree?
"I want them to go in with their eyes open," she says.
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