From Hotel Rooms to Coffee Shops: New World of Online Sperm Donation


'A Weird Blend of Facebook, and a Traditional Sperm Bank'

The website has since changed name to Beth Gardner, a woman also frustrated with her options, founded the donor website in January 2011. "I think where we come from with the website, is that there is an element of freedom of choice, that people should have a choice."

Gardner's partner is now pregnant by a donor they met online.

Tony Dokoupil, a senior reporter for Newsweek, spent months investigating this new online world. He characterizes the site as "a weird blend of Facebook,, and a traditional sperm bank…. Where you get all the sort of medical information about the health and fitness of this person you might procreate with."

Dokoupil estimates thousands of people use this site and others like it. His research took him to some unexpected places where people donate sperm.

"A fairly common location for the exchange is Starbucks," he said. "Right in that one bathroom they always have…they'll use a sterile cup. You can get them at a drugstore. …Hand the cup to the recipient. ..Who will then go into the bathroom… and then you can walk around freely, while nature's taking its course."

Drew Sollenberger, a 26-year-old single software engineer who does work for government agencies, donates to several charities and even donated a kidney to a child. He is also an active donor on Free Sperm Donor Registry. He told "20/20" that he has no interest in monetary gain for donating his semen, and views this as a way to help women and bring children into the world without the responsibilities of marriage or fatherhood. "I would love to have a standard, nuclear family. But to do that, I have to get married and I decided that I was not going to get married… I still wanted to have a child."

Beth and Drew met on FSDR and she says she had a good feeling about him from the beginning. "I knew he wasn't there for the wrong reasons…I just knew he was a good guy and I knew that I wanted to work with him." She said he is tested regularly for sexual transmitted diseases and gives her the results.

After a couple of months of chatting and e-mailing , Beth and her husband, Richard, flew from Wyoming to Maryland, where they would finally meet Drew in their hotel room. They greeted each other with smiles and hugs, shared some stories and photos, and then it was down to business. Drew retreated to the bathroom with a sterile cup while Beth and Richard waited in the hotel lobby until Drew sends Beth a text, simply stating "I'm done."

Then it was time for the couple to do their part of the process. Beth prepared the semen in a syringe, lay down on the hotel bed, and Richard injected her. Beth remained still for about 15 minutes while nature took its course. Or so they hoped.

Beth admits that this method is a "little bit different" but overall, is comfortable with the process and hopeful it will work. "It is a leap of faith… but it's what's best for us."

"When you look at these babies that we've adopted, and all the struggles that they've gone through -- we love both of our babies so much, and we love their mothers for choosing us, " she said. "That's how I feel about Drew at this time, too. He's giving me this gift, that, how many other people would, would freely give?"

Unlike sperm banks, private sperm donation is not formally monitored by the US Food and Drug Administration and recently one online sperm donor made national headlines for not complying with federal guidelines. The FDA paid a surprise visit to inspect his home and issued a "Cease Manufacture" order to California donor Trent Arsenault. He could potentially face jail time and a $100,000 fine and yet he continues to do as many as three donations a week from his home.

To conform to guidelines, "you need to have a battery of STD tests," Newsweek's Dokoupil said, "and these tests…are more than a thousand dollars per attempt…Those standards are so arduous as to make it… impossible for somebody like Trent Arsenault to meet."

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