A new documentary tells the gut-wrenching story of a renowned Nevada fertility doctor who was revealed to have impregnated at least two dozen unwitting women with his own sperm.
Dr Quincy Fortier, who died aged 94 in 2006, was heralded as a pillar of the Las Vegas community and a conception miracle worker for years before being knocked down by allegations that he fathered children with patients without their consent.
Fortier’s twisted insemination practices resulted in the births of at least 24 men and women around the US over the course of four decades.
Nearly all of those children, who now range in age from 30-something to 71, discovered their biological ties to the doctor through biotechnology services including 23andMe and Ancestry.com years.
The bulk of the discoveries came over two decades after Fortier was first accused of fathering two children with one of his patients, who settled a lawsuit against him in the 1990s.
HBO’s new film Baby God, airing Wednesday, delves into Fortier’s crimes – which he never publicly admitted to – through the eyes of several of his victims, the children and their mothers, who suffered lasting trauma from the discovery of who their dad is.
It also details allegations of child abuse against the doctor, whose son and namesake Quincy Fortier Jr sued his father in 2000, claiming that he molested him, his siblings and other children.
HBO’s new documentary Baby God tells the gut-wrenching story of renowned Nevada fertility doctor Quincy Fortier (pictured), who was revealed to have impregnated at least two dozen unwitting women with his own sperm
A trailer for the documentary, directed by Hannah Olson, opens with Cathy Holm, who was 22 years old when she went to Fortier’s practice in Las Vegas in the 1960s looking for help to get pregnant.
‘In those days, all my friends were having babies. We didn’t have one,’ Holm, now 77, says.
‘Nobody had any solutions – until I went to Dr Fortier.’
Holm brought a sample of her husband’s sperm to Fortier and in 1966 she finally gave birth to her daughter, Wendi.
‘Over time, I would look at Wendi, and I’d think: “Gee, you know, it’s really funny that she doesn’t really resemble her father’s side of the family at all,”‘ Holm says.
Wendi Babst (pictured) discovered Fortier was her biological father through a DNA test in 2018
It wasn’t until decades later in 2018 that Wendi Babst made the horrifying discovery that Fortier was her biological father through an at-home DNA test kit.
‘I did a DNA test. Something wasn’t right,’ Wendi, now 54 and living in Portland, Oregon, says in the trailer.
‘My dad’s not my dad. My dad was the fertility doctor in Las Vegas.’
In the film Wendi opens up about how she has considered getting plastic surgery because she can’t bear looking in the mirror and seeing her resemblance to Fortier.
‘I want to change my nose [because] there is this monster who is living within me,’ she says.
Wendi’s grief is shared by at least 23 others – and the number of children discovering Fortier is their dad has continued to grow for years after his death.
In the Baby God trailer one of his sons speculates that there could be ‘hundreds’ of people walking around with the doctor’s DNA.
Fortier’s dramatic fall from grace began in 1996 when one of his former patients, Mary Craddock, filed a lawsuit accusing him of inseminating her with his sperm twice in the 1970s.
DNA tests confirmed Fortier was the father of the two children that resulted from her visits to his practice, and the suit was settled during trial.
Craddock’s allegations came as a shock to Nevada’s medical community, where Fortier was held in high esteem as a commander of a medical reserve unit at Nellis Air Force Base, leader at Faith Lutheran Academy, and member of Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital’s board of trustees.
Perhaps his biggest accomplishment came in 1991, when he was named Nevada Physician of the Year.
Fortier’s dramatic fall from grace began in 1996 when one of his former patients, Mary Craddock, filed a lawsuit accusing him of inseminating her with his sperm twice in the 1970s. The doctor is seen arriving in court during that trial in a scene from Baby God
Fortier’s string of improper impregnations began earlier in his career, with the first known case taking place in 1948 with Dorothy Otis.
Unlike most of Fortier’s other maternal victims, Dorothy didn’t go to him for fertility services but for treatment for a suspected infection.
Under Fortier’s care Dorothy unwittingly became pregnant with a son, Mike.
Mike, now 71 and living in Maricopa, Arizona, found out that Fortier was his father in 2017 through an Ancestry.com test.
Mike and Dorothy, now 94, appeared together to share their story in Baby God. In one scene Dorothy asks of Fortier: ‘Was he trying to see how many people he could [put] on this earth before he died?’
While he remains horrified by Fortier’s actions, Mike said he has come to terms with what the doctor did because it gave him life.
One of the women Fortier inseminated with his sperm shows off a photo of her younger self
‘My view of the whole thing changed a little bit when I looked at my grandchild, and the love that my daughter has in her marriage, and I thought: “It has to be okay,”‘ he told the New York Post.
But for Babst, whose mother was impregnated by Fortier 18 years after Dorothy, accepting reality has been more complicated.
‘I can’t really hate him because I wouldn’t exist without him,’ the mother-of-five told the Post. ‘But I’ve studied nature versus nurture so it’s scary.
‘He has propagated himself through me and my family. It’s a chain reaction that I can’t really stop.’
Babst said she believes Fortier was motivated by an extreme superiority complex – a trait she wishes wasn’t associated with her genetics.
‘It bothers me to think that these doctors thought they were smarter than their patients,’ she said.
‘It was a case of: “Don’t look behind the curtain, little lady, while I make a baby for you.”
‘My mother wanted a family with the man she loved.’
Cathy Holm (pictured with daughter Wendi) went to Fortier for help getting pregnant in 1966
An even more chilling account in Baby God comes from Jonathan Stensland, another one of Fortier’s children whose mother was the doctor’s adoptive father.
Stensland, now 55, was adopted by a Lutheran pastor and a nurse as a baby and grew up in Minnesota.
When he was 17 years old he set out to find his birth mother, Connie Fortier.
‘She called me just before Valentine’s Day in 1992 and came to visit,’ Stensland told the Post.
‘Even at that early stage, I got the sense there was some kind of dark shadow over who my father was.’
Stensland learned that Fortier was his father through a series of letters in which Connie explained that she had never had sex before she became pregnant when she was 18.
‘There was some crazy tale about Quincy giving her an examination and getting some swabs mixed up,’ Stensland said. ‘He tried to say there was a possibility that it was a virgin birth.’
Stensland later went to meet his father in Las Vegas and immediately knew they were related.
‘He had muscles like mine – like Popeye – and it was very clear we shared the same DNA,’ he said.
‘If I didn’t know better, I probably would have quite liked the guy.’
An obituary for Fortier (pictured) mentioned eight children, 15 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren – leaving out the at least two dozen half-siblings he has since been found to have fathered
Offering a different, yet equally sickening, side of Fortier in Baby God is his son Quincy E Fortier Jr, who filed a lawsuit against his father in 2000.
Quincy claimed that his father sexually abused him for over a decade, beginning when he was just three years old. He also said Fortier abused his siblings and other children.
A jury rejected Quincy’s lawsuit in 2002 – one year after the lawsuit from Craddock was settled.
Quincy, now 67, maintained his allegations in Baby God, saying: ‘[My father] molested everyone. The happiest he ever made me was lying in his coffin dead. That’s when I knew I was safe.’
He described his father as ‘crazy’ and ‘a pervert’, speculating that he could have fathered hundreds of kids outside of their nuclear family.
An obituary for Fortier mentioned eight children, 15 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren – leaving out the at least two dozen half-siblings he has since been found to have fathered.
Olson, who directed Baby God, spoke to the Post about how Fortier is just one ‘extreme’ example of a ‘widespread phenomenon’ of fertility doctors using their own sperm to inseminate patients.
That phenomenon was facilitated by the fact that DNA tests did not exist until the 1980s, so mothers would have no reliable way of knowing whose sperm was used to inseminate them.
‘With or without the patients’ knowledge or consent, doctors would use their own sperm to ‘help’ a woman conceive,’ Olson said.
‘They couldn’t predict the future and the ease with which people are now able to analyze their DNA.’
With the rise of at-home DNA tests, more than two dozen fertility doctors in the US have been accused of using their own sperm to inseminate patients in recent years.