Bill Johnson, a 2009 Republican candidate for Governor of Alabama who campaigned on Christian values, has become the source of concern for New Zealand’s fertility medicine community after a newspaper investigation uncovered that while in the country he has been using the internet to privately help three women conceive and that he has been in contact with at least three other women recently about donating his sperm so that they can have children.
According to a New Zealand Herald investigation Johnson’s unofficial sperm donations, while not thought to be illegal, have become ethically concerning because it appears that he has not informed all of the women to whom he donated that he was donating to others and that their children could, and quite probably will, have siblings:
American politician Bill Johnson has spent most of this year in Christchurch helping run the earthquake recovery, all the while using the online persona “chchbill” to meet women who want help to get pregnant.
Under that persona, he has discussed making donations to at least nine women without the knowledge of his family in the US.
Three of the women are now pregnant, and Johnson has assisted another three with donations in the past month. It is believed he has been in communication with at least another three women to discuss sperm donation.
His actions as a sperm donor sparked concern in the fertility medicine community, whose guidelines recommend donations are made in the regulated environment of a fertility clinic, and that no man provide sperm donations to more than four families.
The restriction is to reduce the chance of accidental incest and to reduce the adverse impact on donors and children if – as the law allows – they seek each other out later in life.
Johnson has accused the Herald of illegally acquiring some of the information for its investigation. The Herald strongly denies this claim.
Johnson, a former Birmingham City Councilman and former director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, now works for the disaster recovery company Ceres Environmental. He moved to Queensland following this year’s devastating Christchurch earthquake in order to take up a position as long-term recovery manager.
Johnson, who is married, left his wife Kathy behind when he moved. Kathy has three children from a previous relationship but the couple have never had children of their own because Kathy, due to a hysterectomy, is incapable. Johnson says that this has driven his “need” to have children.
While Johnson reportedly told the Herald he had discussed the possibility of sperm donation with his wife, it appears that she was unaware of the pregnancies.
“I am married to the most beautiful woman in the world,” Johnson told reporter David Fisher. “When I married her I knew we couldn’t have any more children. She had a hysterectomy 10 years ago. There is nothing my wife would want to give me more in the world than a child of my own.”
Johnson did not respond to an email and did not answer a call to his cell phone tonight. His wife, Kathy, declined to comment Sunday.
“This is a really, really difficult time for our family,” Kathy Johnson said in an email to the Press-Register. “I’m still in disbelief and very hurt, and our family has a lot of healing to do.”
Johnson’s actions are subject to even more scrutiny due to the fact that at least one of the couples he donated sperm to is a lesbian couple. Johnson’s 2009 bid for governor of Alabama saw him use an anti-gay marriage platform.
In an interview with the lesbian couple the Herald also noted that Johnson appeared to have hidden the fact that he was married. Other recipients suggest that Johnson, while disclosing that he had a wife, had told them he had his wife’s consent to donate his sperm, something which now appears to be false.
Johnson has expressed his desire to help financially maintain at least one of the children.
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