Feminist Legal Studies

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 141–163 | Cite as

‘Wrongful’ Inheritance: Race, Disability and Sexuality in Cramblett v. Midwest Sperm Bank

  • Suzanne Lenon
  • Danielle Peers


In 2014 Jennifer Cramblett, a white lesbian, filed a Complaint for Wrongful Birth alleging that the Midwest Sperm Bank mistakenly provided sperm from an African–American donor. In this article, we trace the complex and overlapping lines of legal and social inheritance that have conditioned not only the possibility of such a lawsuit, but also the legal language and arguments within the Complaint itself. First, we trace the racial politics of homonormativity, which set the conditions of possibility for an out, white lesbian to bring this case forward. Second, we trace the inheritance of wrongful birth tort law, reviewing its prior race and disability-related uses, and its basis in feminist reproductive rights. Third, we trace how disability, race and sexuality interlock within the eugenic inheritance of both ‘wrongful birth’ and reproductive technologies. Finally, we follow traces of racial inheritance, namely, the loss of white property and proximity to whiteness.


Wrongful birth Race Whiteness Homonationalism Eugenics Inheritance 


  1. Ahmed, Sara. 2006. Queer phenomenology: Orientations, objects, others. Durham & London: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Associated Press. 2015. Woman accidentally impregnated with black man’s sperm has legal case dismissed. In The Guardian, September 5. Accessed 17 Aug 2016.
  3. Bernabe, Alberto. 2014. Final thoughts on the sperm bank case. Torts blog, October 14. Accessed 14 Aug 2016.
  4. Bernabe, Alberto. 2016. Do black lives matter? Race as a measure of injury in tort law. The Scholar: St. Mary’s Law Review on Race and Social Justice 18 (1): 41–72.Google Scholar
  5. Black, Edwin. 2003. War against the weak: Eugenics and America’s campaign to create a master race. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows.Google Scholar
  6. #Blacklivesmatter. Guiding Principles. Accessed 5 Sep 2016.
  7. Boustan, Leah Platt. 2011. Racial residential segregation in American cities. In The Oxford handbook of Urban economics and planning, ed. Nancy Brooks, Kieran Donaghy, and Gerrit-Jan Knaap, 318–339. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Carpenter, Dale. 2012. Flagrant conduct: The story of Lawrence v. Texas. New York & London: Norton.Google Scholar
  9. Chamallas, Martha, and Jennifer B. Wriggens. 2010. The measure of injury: Race, gender, and tort law. New York & London: New York University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Combahee River Collective. 1982. A black feminist statement. In All the women are white, all the blacks are men, but some of us are brave, ed. Gloria Hull, Patricia Bell Scott, and Barbara Smith, 13–22. New York: Feminist Press.Google Scholar
  11. Crenshaw, Kimberlé. 1988. Race, Reform, and retrenchment: Transformation and legitimation in antidiscrimination law. Harvard Law Review 101 (7): 1331–1387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Crenshaw, Kimberlé. 1991. Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review 43 (6): 1241–1299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Davidson, Ki’tay. 2014. Angry about the white lesbians suing for having a black child? You’re missing something. In Blackgirldangerous, October 6. Accessed 17 Aug 2016.
  14. DiAngelo, Robin. 2011. White fragility. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy 3 (3): 54–70.Google Scholar
  15. Dice, Lee R. 1952. Heredity clinics: Their value for public service and for research. American Journal of Human Genetics 4 (1): 1–13.Google Scholar
  16. Dryden, OmiSoore H. 2016. Unrepresentable blood: Canadian blood donation, ‘Gay Blood’, and the queerness of blackness. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Toronto.Google Scholar
  17. Duggan, Lisa. 2002. The new homonormativity: The sexual politics of neoliberalism. In Materializing democracy: Toward a revitalized cultural politics, ed. Russ Castronovo, and Dana D. Nelson, 174–194. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Franke, Katherine. 2004. The domesticated liberty of Lawrence v. Texas. Columbia Law Review 104 (5): 1399–1426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Garland Thomson, Rosemarie. 2005. Feminist disability studies. Journal of Women in Culture and Society 30: 1557–1587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Haritaworn, Jin. 2015. Queer lovers and hateful others: Regenerating violent times and places. London: Pluto Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Haritaworn, Jin, Tamsila Tauqir, and Esra Erdem. 2008. Gay imperialism: Gender and sexuality discourse in the ‘War on Terror’. In Out of Place: Interrogating Silences in Queerness/Raciality, ed. Adi Kuntsman, and Esperanza Miyake, 71–95. York: Raw Nerve Books.Google Scholar
  22. Harris, Cheryl I. 1993. Whiteness as property. Harvard Law Review 106 (8): 1707–1791.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hensel, Wendy F. 2005. The Disabling impact of wrongful birth and wrongful life actions. Harvard Civil Rights Civil Liberties Law Review 40 (1): 141–197.Google Scholar
  24. Jacoby, Jeff. 2014. Wrong sperm, right baby: So why sue? In Boston Globe, October 9. Accessed 17 Aug 2016.
  25. Johnson, Heather Beth, and Thomas M. Shapiro. 2003. Good neighborhoods, good schools: Race and the ‘Good Choices’ of white families. In White out: The continuing significance of racism, ed. Ashley W. Doane, and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, 173–187. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  26. Kafer, Alison. 2013. Feminist, queer, crip. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Kumari, Campbell Fiona. 2009. Contours of ableism: The production of disability abledness. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  28. Lorde, Audre. 1984. Sister outsider: Essays & speeches by Audre Lorde. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press.Google Scholar
  29. MacMurchy, Helen. 1907. Feeble-minded in Ontario. Toronto: Office of the Feeble-minded. Accessed Sep 2015.
  30. Malacrida, Claudia. 2015. A special hell: Institutional life in Alberta’s eugenic years. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  31. Massey, Douglas S., and Nancy A. Denton. 1998. American apartheid: Segregation and the making of the underclass. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  32. McCarthy, Timothy Patrick and Darnell L. Moore. 2013. In Conversation: On the landmark SCOTUS decisions, single-variable politics and movement forward. In The feminist wire, June 26. Accessed 7 Oct 2016.
  33. McLaren, Angus. 1990. Our own master race: Eugenics in Canada, 1885–1945. Toronto: McLelland and Stewart.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. McWade, Brigit, Damian Milton, and Peter Beresford. 2015. Mad studies and neurodiversity: A dialogue. Disability and Society 30: 305–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McWhorter, Ladelle. 2009. Racism and sexual oppression in Anglo-America: A genealogy. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Mor, Sagit. 2014. The dialectic of wrongful birth and wrongful life claims in Israel: A disability critique. Studies in Law, Politics, and Society 63: 113–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. O’Neil, Lonnae. 2015. A few words about suit for ‘Wrongful Birth’ of a biracial child. In Washington Post, September 10. Accessed 17 Aug 2016.
  38. Ordover, Nancy. 2003. American eugenics: Race, queer anatomy, and the science of nationalism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  39. Polo, Carissa. 2014. Faking a manufacturer’s defect on a designer baby. In The wake: Fortnightly student magazine, October 27. Accessed 4 Sep 2016.
  40. Puar, Jasbir K. 2007. Terrorist assemblages: Homonationalism in queer times. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Reddy, Chandan. 2011. Freedom with violence: Race, sexuality, and the US State. Durham & London: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rhinehart, Kelly E. 2002. The debate over wrongful birth and wrongful life. Law and Psychology Review 26: 141–157.Google Scholar
  43. Rinaldi, Jennifer A. 2009. Wrongful life and wrongful birth: The devaluation of life with disability. Journal of Public Policy, Administration and Law 1: 1–7.Google Scholar
  44. Roberts, Dorothy. 2011. Fatal invention: How science, politics, and big business re-create race in the twenty-first century. New York & London: The New Press.Google Scholar
  45. Roberts, Dorothy. 1997. Killing the black body: Race, Reproduction, and the meaning of liberty. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  46. Snyder, Sharon L., and David T. Mitchell. 2006. Cultural locations of disability. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Stubblefield, Anna. 2007. Beyond the pale: Tainted whiteness, cognitive disability, and eugenic sterilization. Hypatia 22 (2): 162–181.Google Scholar
  48. Tremain, Shelley. 2006. On the government of disability. In The disability studies reader, 2nd ed, ed. Lennard J. Davis, 185–196. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  49. Walters, Suzana Danuta. 2014. The tolerance trap: How god, genes, and good intentions are sabotaging gay equality. New York: NYU Press.Google Scholar
  50. Williams, Patricia J. 1997. Seeing a color blind future: The paradox of race. New York: The Noonday Press.Google Scholar
  51. Williams, Patricia J. 2014. The value of whiteness: A lawsuit is being waged against the ‘Wrongful Birth’ of a black child. In The Nation, November 12. Accessed 17 Aug 2016.
  52. Withers, A.J. 2012. Disability politics and theory. Black Point: Fernwood.Google Scholar
  53. Wolbring, Gregor. 2014. ‘Culture of Peace’ from an ability and disability studies lens. In Expanding peace ecology: Peace, Security, sustainability, equity and gender: Perspectives of IPRA’s ecology and peace commission, ed. Ursula Oswald Spring, Hans Günter Brauch, and Keith Tidball, 183–199. Cham: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Women and Gender StudiesUniversity of LethbridgeLethbridgeCanada
  2. 2.Faculty of Physical Education and RecreationUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

Personalised recommendations