Growing up, Laura High always felt she was different. It wasn’t until she was 14 years old, when her father disclosed that she was conceived using purchased sperm, that her suspicions she was born an outlier were confirmed.
“It was like seeing the matrix. It was like everything makes sense now. I knew something was weird. I knew something was off. I was always wondering if I was switched at birth,” High told The Federalist. “And that’s a common experience for a lot of donor-conceived people.”
High didn’t pay much attention to the details of her conception when she first learned the news, but it wasn’t long before the New York City-based stand-up comedian wanted to review her heritage in depth.
“At 19, I started having questions because I started talking to my friends about it. And I think one of my friends even brought up, ‘Are you ever worried about health?’” High said.
That led High on a long journey of discovery that didn’t just pique her interest, but ultimately led to a peak in her comedy career.
The Acorn Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree
When High was 19, she decided she wanted to know more about her biological father and his health profile. Her first step was to reach out to the doctor who facilitated the procedure for her parents decades ago.
“He told me: ‘Your donor was anonymous. So even if I knew who he was, I couldn’t tell you who it was. But I don’t even know who it is because he came from a clinic, and that clinic burned to the ground along with all your papers. So I can’t even tell you your history. But I can tell you your donor is completely healthy,’” High recounted.
The doctor’s lack of interest in helping her uncover her familial roots left High wondering if she was the victim of a malicious DNA swap — similar to the one featured in the fertility fraud documentary “Our Father,” whereby a fertility doctor habitually used his own sperm instead of other donors’ to father some 94 (and counting) offspring, raising a slew of ethical and potential inbreeding problems — by her parents’ doctor.
Determined to figure things out for herself, High used an Ancestry DNA test to determine her genetic background. That’s when she stumbled across the cousin of her biological father. Eventually, High connected with her half-siblings who were also conceived using bought biological matter.
To her amazement, High and her half-siblings all realized they struggled with similar genetic medical issues that they strongly suspect were inherited from their biological father. Without records, verification from their biological father, or aid from the same industry that facilitated their conception, however, there was no way to prove it.
That was frustrating for High — and it signaled that this industry, which masquerades as a way for adults who dream of becoming parents to make that a reality, was a nightmare for many.
“[The industry is] driven by profit. It’s driven by how much money can we make. The infertility industry should be the place of miracles. It should be the place of happiness, it should be. But it’s the place of [medical] rape, and kids getting sick and exploited, and eugenics. That’s what it is right now,” High explained.
Profit over People
Assisted reproduction is a touchy subject not everyone wants to discuss. But High isn’t afraid of tough conversations — especially when it comes to how she was created.
“You had an industry and a donor profit off of my creation. I was bought and sold as a product. And my parents were actively lied to. And then I was actively lied to. And all [the industry] cared about is the product getting made.”
Humor, High said, is just another way for her to expose the corruption that plagues the baby-making industry and connect with others like her.
“I’ve watched how powerful laughter and humor are for spreading messages and for getting people to listen,” High explained. “People will listen to you if you make them laugh. So that is a big piece that has influenced my stand-up is if you want to say something important, wrap it up in a joke.”
More than 559,600 followers on TikTok and another 27,800 on Instagram later, High has a bipartisan audience that’s willing to listen to her seemingly radical, true statements about the fertility industry like, “Donor conception as it is today is legalized eugenics.”
Whether on social media or the stand-up stage, High desperately wants Americans to understand that the multibillion-dollar industry that manufactures millions of babies each year is riddled with unethical practices.
“I think it only takes a few horror stories to really show society the fine print and for them to realize, holy sh-t, how bad it is. Because then also, recipient parents are looking at the bill that they paid, and then they realize they paid thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars for literally nothing, for no guarantees whatsoever,” High said.
There may be some redeeming qualities to assisted reproduction, High said, but the fertility industry itself is corrupt to the core.
“It’s not to say there aren’t good people in this industry. I’m sure there are. But the industry allows for bad people to flourish. If you’re somebody with loose ethics, here’s an industry where you literally can play God and there are no consequences,” High said.
Reining in an Unregulated Industry
“The whole basis was ‘I just want to find my family.’ But it’s turned into, now, me fighting for legislation,” High said.
Thanks to her platform, High was able to team up with others conceived by and concerned with the fertility industry to get fertility fraud and other legislation passed on both the state and federal levels.
“We are literal walking pieces of evidence. And we talk and we can prove with our very blood how the infertility industry lied,” High said.
Top legislative priorities for reining in Big Fertility, High maintains, should be making it a federal crime for a doctor to switch out a donor’s sperm with his own, and ensuring the verification of gametes’ donors’ medical histories.
“The amount of donors who we have caught straight up just lying about very severe genetic illnesses is quite terrifying,” she said. “We have to verify medical history because that could be a death sentence to a donor-conceived child. And it’s an unneeded death sentence.”
It’s also important, High said, to bring attention to how fertility facilities operate even before they begin putting the biological matter up for bidding.
“Clinics’ favorite places to poach donors are college campuses,” High explained. “If you look where every single clinic is in the United States, you’ll see that they’re all situated extremely close to colleges. I mean, literally, right next to them.”
These fertility facilities dangle dollars in front of young, cash-strapped men and women in exchange for their biological matter.
There are no laws limiting how many times an individual can supply gametes, nor are there any laws limiting how many children can be manufactured using purchased eggs and sperm. The only guidance for gametes supply comes from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, which recommends a limit of 25 live births per sperm donor within a population of 800,000.
“I know that obviously happy families have been built from [donor conception], and I’m not denying that. But as it stands right now, with the amount of corruption and unethical behavior, I’m not going to give [the industry] any credit at the moment,” High concluded.