Transcript for Brave New Online World of Free Sperm Donation
So, how far would you go to start family, have a baby? We have followed this next couple on their incredible journey for more than four years and not just how far they have gone but how far someone in our "20/20" audience went. One of you watchings out there, to help them along. My monitor, it says that I have a high day right now so it's a good time to inseminate. Reporter: Like millions of couples, Beth and Richard are on a quest to have a baby. But unlike most, their labor of love is launching them on a cross-country odyssey. Their destination, a nondescript hotel room. That's pretty much my whole gamut of fertility products. If you want a baby it's worth it. Reporter: And an intimate encounter with a perfect stranger. Okay, he just texted me back, says he's on the way. So, why the need to get pregnant? I've really felt the need, ever since we got married. Reporter: Their saga started when they discovered Richard's vasectomy could not be reversed. They've spent years taking in 60 foster children and adopted two of the neediest but Beth yearned to give birth herself. I wanted to know what it feels to have the baby inside of you. Reporter: After two years and $14,000 worth of sperm banks and artificial inseminations, Beth and Richard just couldn't afford any more. They'd nearly lost hope. And then one day Beth turned on her computer and clicked onto a brave new world. What did you Google, "Free sperm?" Free sperm. You really can find everything on the internet. Yes, you really can. Reporter: To Beth's surprise, it turns out there is an entire online universe devoted to free sperm donation. Sites like the known donor registry. Having a child is a big deal, and there's a lot of people out there saying, I don't want to have a child with somebody that I haven't talked to. That I can't meet face to face. Reporter: Beth Gardner founded knowndonorregistry.com. It offers a list of hundreds men willing to donate free sperm to thousands of women desperate to conceive. They have chat rooms, they have forums. What, do I click on something, and a picture pops up? Yeah, you get a picture, where they're born, where they went to college. Reporter: Reporter Tony dokoupil spent months investigating this new online world. It's a weird blend of Facebook, match.com, and a traditional sperm bank where you get all this medical information about this person who you might procreate with. Reporter: Tony estimates thousands of people use these sites. His research took him to some unexpected places where people donate sperm. A fairly common location for the exchange is Starbucks. Starbucks? Yeah. This will be happening right in that one bathroom they always have. And you use a cup that, like, any cup, or a coffee cup? I mean, they'll use a sterile cup. Okay. You can get them at a drugstore. Hand the cup to the recipient, who will then go into the bathroom. Reporter: Going online, Beth discovered the known donor registry and a donor named drew Sollenberger. I listed myself on that site, and fairly quickly, I started getting contacts from multiple individuals. Reporter: Drew is a brilliant 29-year-old software engineer who does work for government agencies. He's also a member of the brotherhood who give away their sperm rather than earn thousands of dollars selling it to sperm banks. You know that there is, probably, out there, a bit of an assumption that guys like you, are, you know, a little -- Many people do distrust sperm donors. But there are many good donors. Reporter: Drew is an extreme altruist who donates thousands of dollars to charity and even donated one of his kidneys to a child. Today, drew is traveling to a Maryland hotel room. This is how you have a baby. Reporter: Beth and Richard have come here all the way from Wyoming to inseminate with the man they've never met before. I'm just curious. What do you use? I mean, in the movies, you see a Turkey baster. You just use a regular syringe. Draw in the semen with the syringe, you lay down on the bed, prop your hips up. What do you say? Come on in! Thank you. This is my husband, Richard. Hi. Nice to meet you. Hi, drew. Good to meet you, too. Why were you so convinced that drew should be your donor? I had talked to him, and he told me about the charities he gave to. I knew he wasn't there for the wrong reasons. I just knew he was a good guy, Reporter: Beth and drew conduct a kind of awkward first dance. Good to meet you. At a traditional sperm bank, there's the assurance that the semen has been frozen for six months and thoroughly tested for diseases. That is not the case here. When he donated his kidney to a child he had to be screened by the hospital for, I'm sure, every possible disease, and he's also been screened for STDs, and he's given me that paperwork. But you're really trusting. Basically trusting that he is who he says he is. Yeah. Reporter: Armed with a good gut feeling, Beth is ready to go to the next step. Okay, so we'll go downstairs, then, and I'll have my phone on me. Okay. Okay. Thanks drew. All right. Reporter: Drew retreats to the bathroom with a cup and his imagination. Downstairs, Beth and Richard don't have to wait long for drew's text. He's ready for us. Reporter: Now it's time for Beth to begin her part of her part of the process. It's ready for you in there. Okay. Thanks. You don't feel embarrassed, he doesn't feel embarrassed? I think my husband feels more embarrassed than we do. Is that true, Richard? I'm sure it is. Well, thank you. Thank you. We'll see you tomorrow. You ready? Yeah. Okay. Reporter: While Beth positions the pillows to ensure maximum effect. Get a couple pillows to put my hips up on. Final delivery of this gift is entrusted to Richard. Slip off my shoes. So we inseminated. The syringe is still in, we'll leave it in for probably about 15 minutes. Thank you for your support with this. I feel like it's important for him to be there. That way I can say he was there at conception. He will be the father of the baby. Reporter: And Richard is there over the next five days. As Beth and drew repeat the now-familiar ritual of insemination. He says he's done. Reporter: They will know in a few anxious weeks if Beth is pregnant. You know that there are people out there watching this right now thinking -- We're crazy? Well, we are. Or naive. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, it is a leap of faith. But it's what's best for us. Reporter: There is one more leap of faith some women are willing to take to have a baby involving a hotel room but no cup, no syringe. It's called natural insemination, or "N.I." In other words, having sex with people you meet online specifically to get pregnant. At least a third of women click that they're available for N.I. As an option. How many actually go through with it, I don't know. Reporter: But for Beth and her husband Richard, that is a step too far. Unfortunately, after they inseminated with drew in that Maryland hotel room Beth did not get pregnant. But they are continuing to try and have a baby. I have this really strong urge that I want to have a biological child, if I have to work extra hard to get it, I'll do it. I don't give up. And she hasn't had to, thanks to a "20/20" viewer. After originally seeing Beth and Richard's story an anonymous doern wrote them a check for $48,000, another for five new rounds of ivf with their partner, drew. And they're still at it. Still at it. If you wanted ]
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