FDA Regulation of Sperm Donation


An article in the February 13, 2012 Issue of New York Magazine titled “The Virgin Father” by Benjamin Wallace brings to light several legal and ethical issues surrounding proper regulation of “Do It Yourself” sperm donations. Trent Arsenault has been labeled The Virgin Father.[1] Although Trent never had sex with a woman, he has fathered 15 children to date. Trent is “part of a growing movement of peer-to-peer sperm donation that bypassed regulated banks”, by conducting his own sperm donation business through a website. [2] Trent is very pragmatic in his daily regime to keep his body healthy in order to produce the healthiest and most fertile sperm possible.

The FDA learned about Trent and his private sperm donation business, and launched an investigation against him, filing a “cease manufacture” order. “Although sperm is neither a food nor a drug, the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research has the power to  regulate those who traffic items that can possibly spread communicable diseases and genetic disorders.”[3] Historically, the FDA has only regulated traditional sperm banks, not private donors. However, because Trent was so public about his actions, the FDA contacted him and Trent signed a document confirming he was “an establishment”.[4] The FDA used this as a means to issue a cease-manufacture order that Trent wasn’t screening for diseases enough. Trent responded by claiming his celibacy, unusually healthily diet, and disease free lifestyle was enough to safeguard his DNA. A public interest group, Cause of Action, took Trent’s case, appealing the FDA’s order, claiming that they were overreaching into Trent’s “intimate” relationships with people, (for which he is receiving no compensation).[5] Trent is still awaiting a decision from the FDA, however the cease-manufacture order has been suspended.

This fascinating and unique story permeates calls into question some constitutional question. Is the FDA’s intervention an unwarranted intrusion into the private lives of individuals who are wishing to procreate? Is the FDA right in wishing to regulate Trent’s actions? Trent is in fact providing all the women and couples that come to him with more information than a one night stand may offer. What if Trent was instead having sex with all these women to impregnate them; would the FDA be able to regulate him then?


[1] New York Magazine, “The Virgin Father” by Benjamin Wallace, February 13, 2012.

[2] Id. at 32.

[3] Id. at 34.

[4] Id. at 35.

[5] Id. at 35.