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WHY TALK SPERM without at least briefly revisiting the Cecil Jacobson case? Jacobson’s practice, the Vienna Reproductive Genetics Clinic, was closed in 1988 amid revelations (and exaggerations) about his fondness for fertilizing patients with his own sperm. He was later convicted of 52 counts of fraud and perjury.

Those legal proceedings made him a laughingstock way beyond the Beltway. Clinic personnel described the boss’ tendency to run off for some time alone just before visiting infertile patients. The prosecution alleged that Jacobson had personally sired 70 kids on the job. (Evidence showed that the actual tally was 16.) By the end of the trial, rare was the TV owner who hadn’t heard the one about the fertility doctor who did a cannonball into the local gene pool.

Vienna attorney James Tate, who defended Jacobson at trial, never found the situation humorous. Tate sees the case as his own private

Waco: To his mind, a fertility doctor who didn’t deny spreading his seed to patients made an easy a target for government persecution.

“Cecil deserved an award for what he was doing, not prosecution,” Tate fumes. “He was a pioneer and a genius, not a criminal. Cecil took the skid row of fertility patients—women who no other doctor would take, women who had already been turned away or let down by every other fertility clinic they’d been to. But Cecil accepted them, and even charged a lot less than any other fertility doctor was charging! And he got results! That’s what the evidence really showed. But people didn’t understand Cecil. If only he hadn’t used his own sperm, there never would have been a case!”

But he did, and there was. Jacobson, who entered the federal correctional system in February 1994, is now serving his five-year sentence in a Las Vegas prison camp.