Eve Wiley’s story wasn’t always so complicated. She was born in 1987 and grew up in Center, Texas, a small town just a few miles from the Louisiana border. Her father, Doug, a teacher at the local high school, died when she was seven, so her mother, Margo, the school nurse, had to struggle to support her three children. But as Margo said, “If you could be born with a happy gene, [Eve] was born with it.”
When Eve was 16, she logged on to her mother’s computer and started scrolling through her emails. Being the school’s nurse, her mother was privy to its juiciest gossip, and like most teenagers, Eve trafficked in information. But after a few minutes, she stumbled upon a revelation even she wasn’t prepared to handle.
"I was on there and I saw all of these e-mails about artificial insemination,” Eve told ABC News. “And after about the tenth or eleventh one, I clicked on it. And when I clicked on that one, I scrolled down to the bottom and it said: ‘I'm just gathering information for my daughter. She was born July 28th of 1987.’ And that's my birthday."
When Eve confronted her mother the next morning, she learned the truth, that after a year of trying to get pregnant with no success, her parents sought the help of Dr. Kim McMorries, a well-respected fertility doctor in nearby Nacogdoches, who recommended that they try artificial insemination.
After several failed attempts both with her husband Doug’s sperm and that of an anonymous donor from the California Cryobank, Margo chose another anonymous donor from the cryobank – Donor #106 – from a sheet of paper listing possible donors and a few personal traits and interests. After five more failed attempts, Margo finally became pregnant with Eve.
Eve was confused to learn all of this, of course, but also excited. She still had a biological father out there, she thought, and she needed to find him.
“It's this constant question, the strangers passing by on the street, every person that you meet,” Eve told ABC News. “There’s this mystery out there of half of who I am.”
When she turned 18, Eve collected her medical records and sent them to California Cryobank, along with a letter she wrote to Donor #106 the staff agreed to pass along. About a year later, Eve finally met Steve Scholl.
Their connection was so immediate and genuine, she said, that it felt natural. Eve had prepared herself for an awkward and cautious interaction, but Scholl proved just as excited as she was. Over time, theirs became a kind of blended family, as they traded emails, talked on the phone, planned cross-country reunions. She called him ‘Dad.’ They said ‘I love you.’ She watched Scholl’s daughters grow up. And years later, when Eve got married, it was Scholl who officiated the ceremony.
It was a story that, despite its complications, she was proud to tell. She felt that she had pushed through secrecy and stigma, she said, and now felt a duty to represent the sometimes-marginalized donor-conceived community as best she could.
“I had this fairy tale story,” Eve told ABC News, “and this man had become my dad.”
But Eve’s story did not end there. She and her blended family were in store for another, much darker, twist.
When commercial DNA testing first became available, Eve wasn’t particularly interested. Now 30, she had a family of her own and felt secure in who she was. But as the popularity of services like 23andMe and Ancestry grew, so did her curiosity. Many sperm donors have several children born from their donations, so maybe, she thought, she has a few half-siblings out there. Maybe they had been searching for her.
So, she bought an in-home testing kit, followed the instructions, and waited. Sure enough, Eve got an email a few weeks later, and her genetic family tree started to come into focus.
But something wasn’t right. Eve had been matched with someone back in East Texas, somewhere she knew neither Scholl nor his family had ever lived.
Eve continued with her search, now afraid of what she might find. But she was completely unprepared when late last year, while trading messages with her latest match, a biological first cousin, she discovered a secret she said was devastating.
“I have one uncle,” he said when Eve asked him about his family. “He lives in Nacogdoches, Texas, and his name is Kim McMorries.”
The growing realization, she said, suddenly hit her all at once. Her mother’s fertility doctor had artificially inseminated her mother with his own sperm, making him – not Donor #106 – her biological father.
Eve didn’t want to believe it, she said, but she knew this was no mere coincidence. She steeled herself to deliver heartbreaking news to two of the people she cared about most.
“Having to tell Steve and having to tell my mom,” Eve told ABC News. “Those were the two most difficult conversations I have ever had in my life.”
Her mother, Margo, joined her in disbelief.
“I was just in shock. I was shaking,” Margo told ABC News. “I couldn't believe it. I really trusted him.”
Eve waited three months to tell Scholl. When she finally called to tell him, she said she listened to him cry for what felt like 15 or 20 minutes, unsure of what else to do or say. Scholl received the results of his own DNA test a few weeks later. It revealed that his long-ago sperm donations had indeed produced biological children – but Eve was not one of them.
“That was tough,” Scholl told ABC News. “It was something that we had lived with so easily for over a decade.”
But shock soon gave way to anger. She felt deceived, deprived of knowing her true self by actions beyond her control.
“I don't want it to be that. Eve Wiley is, you know, a daughter of Kim McMorries and then that's the period,” Eve told ABC News. “ I wanted to write the rest of this story.”
She reached out, through a friend, to ABC News, which consulted with CeCe Moore, a genetic genealogist and ABC News contributor, to confirm what Eve already had discovered.
“In Eve’s case, I could see that she was carrying DNA from all of the recent ancestral lines of Dr. McMorries’ family, meaning all of his great-grandparents, all of his grandparents,” Moore told ABC News. “And so that gives me a lot of confidence that we’ve identified the correct biological father.”
And Eve soon learned that there were other instances of doctors allegedly using their own in sperm in their fertility practices. Among them was an Indianapolis-based fertility doctor named Donald Cline who was accused in 2014 of using his own sperm to artificially inseminate several of his own patients after commercial DNA testing revealed him to be the unexpected nexus of a large genetic family tree. More than 50 people have since been identified as his offspring.
Jody Madeira, co-director of the Center for Law, Society and Culture at Indiana University-Bloomington who has worked on a push for state legislation prompted by the Cline case, has since become an expert in the emerging legal landscape surrounding what she calls “fertility fraud.”
“Cases like this are cropping up all over the country at this point,” Madeira told ABC News. “A lot of people have compared the fertility industry to the Wild West … There’s very, very little criminal [charges] holding these people accountable … The question is: Are these physicians playing God?”
But as Eve continued to conduct research – and prepared to seek answers from the only person who could possibly provide them – she soon stumbled upon one more surprise.
In most states, what Dr. McMorries had done didn’t appear to be against the law.
Dr. McMorries still runs an obstetrics, gynecology and infertility clinic in Nacogdoches called the Women’s Center, which advertises on its website a blend of “conservative values with personal health.”
So, Eve wrote him a letter, confronting him with the evidence she had compiled.
“Through genetic testing, I recently learned that I am not biologically related to Donor #106. … You can imagine my devastation upon learning that Donor #106, Steve, was not really my biological father,” Eve wrote in February. “What is even more surprising to me is that through publicly available genetic testing data I am biologically related to certain relatives of yours.”
In response, Dr. McMorries told her that he had resorted to adding his own sperm – donated when he had been a medical student – in Margo’s artificial insemination after five previous attempts with sperm from Donor #106 had failed.
“Since I had been a donor while in medical school … I spoke with one of my mentors … and he said they were having better success by mixing samples,” Dr. McMorries replied. “He suggested first taking the patient’s husbands [sic] sample and combining it with the donor … If the husband’s sample was too poor, then combining two donor samples might do better. The thinking at that time was that if the patient got pregnant, there was no way to know which sperm affected the conception … No one ever considered the effect of genetic testing 32 years later. I believe this may have been what happened in your mother’s case.”
On the critical issue of consent, Dr. McMorries insisted that after the repeated failures with Donor #106’s sperm, he had discussed with Eve’s mother the idea of mixing in an anonymous local donor’s sperm with #106’s sperm to increase the chances of conception. He said she had agreed to proceed in this fashion. He would never have proceeded, he said, without her consent.
Margo, however, has firmly denied that any such conversation ever took place. To the contrary, she recalled telling him explicitly that she did not want to use a local donor, fearing the distant possibility that her child could one day unknowingly date a half-sibling.
“Absolutely not,” Margo told ABC News. “That would never have been a conversation we had … That just didn’t happen.”
In any case, Dr. McMorries acknowledged that he never told Margo that the local sperm he was using was his own. He could not tell her, he said, because of the anonymity agreement he signed when he made the donation.
Over the course of their correspondence, he apologized “for all the grief this has caused you and your family” but defended himself by stressing that changing attitudes had merely put his past conduct in a new light.
“It is easy to look back and judge protocols/standards used 33 years ago and assume they were wrong in today’s environment,” Dr. McMorries wrote. “However, it was not wrong 33 years ago as that was acceptable practice for the times.”
For Eve, the explanation was not enough.
“I don’t feel like he’s understanding the seriousness of this,” she said.
For Judy Daar, dean-elect of Northern Kentucky University’s Chase College of Law and chair of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine Ethics Committee, Dr. McMorries actions were ethically dubious – then and now.
“If the doctor wanted to be the genetic parent of a patient’s offspring, he would have to engage in a very deep and thorough conversation, in which the patient gave informed consent,” Daar told ABC News. “I can’t imagine any circumstances under which [his actions] would be acceptable.”
Dr. McMorries declined to be interview by ABC News. In a letter to ABC News, his lawyer called Dr. McMorries “a good and fine man who is an excellent, well respected OB/Gyn. He has a reputation for trying to help his patients as much as he possibly can.” He also pointed out that “there is no law that requires disclosure of donor identity even if the donor is her physician.”
Which is why for the past several weeks, Eve has been driving from her home in Dallas to the state capitol in Austin, meeting with lawmakers to build support for a bill that would make it a criminal sexual assault for a doctor to use a donor’s sperm without the patient’s express consent to the use of that donor.
The bill was unanimously approved by members of the Texas State Senate in April, and it is currently being considered by members of the Texas House of Representatives.
For her part, Eve is eager to write this latest chapter of her story on her own terms this time.
“I recognized that I had a platform, and that I needed to use it,” she said. “I was gonna make this bigger than myself, and then it was time for change.”
ABC News’ Lara Moehlman contributed to this report.