Retired Idaho doctor and Mormon temple president denies fraud in insemination lawsuit

Boise, Idaho • An eastern Idaho fertility doctor accused in a lawsuit of secretly using his own sperm to inseminate a patient nearly four decades ago says he did nothing wrong and doesn’t remember using his own sperm for the procedure.

Dr. Gerald Mortimer, a retired obstetrician and gynecologist from Idaho Falls who once served as president of an LDS Church temple and a church mission in the Philippines, filed his response to the lawsuit in Idaho’s U.S. District Court on Wednesday. In it, he contends his patient agreed to let him select the “anonymous donor sperm” as long as he judged it to be appropriate and safe.

Kelli Rowlette and her parents Sally Ashby and Howard Fowler filed the lawsuit against Mortimer in March, contending that the doctor committed medical malpractice, breach of contract and fraud when he carried out the artificial insemination procedures on Ashby over several months in 1980.

At the time, the couple was told Ashby had a tipped uterus and Fowler had a low sperm count. They say Mortimer told them he could attempt to inseminate Ashby using a mixture of genetic material, with 85 percent of the sperm coming from Fowler and 15 percent coming from an anonymous donor. Ashby and Fowler maintain that they agreed to the process, as long as the donor sperm came from a college student who resembled Fowler: more than 6 feet tall with brown hair and blue eyes.

Rowlette was born the following year, and her parents never told her how she was conceived. It wasn’t until Rowlette took at DNA test through the genealogy company Ancestry.com and got an unexpected result — the company predicted that Mortimer, who had also apparently submitted a DNA sample to the company at some point, was her father.

The couple says they wouldn’t have agreed to the insemination procedure if they’d known Mortimer was going to use his own semen.

Mortimer, meanwhile, denies the allegations.

“Dr. Mortimer admits only that Ms. Ashby decided to use anonymous donor sperm/semen in an artificial insemination process as long as, in Dr. Mortimer’s judgment, the anonymous donor sperm was appropriate and safe,” Mortimer’s attorneys Raymond Powers and Portia Rauer wrote on his behalf. “Dr. Mortimer has no recollection of having utilized his sperm/semen in the artificial insemination process with Ms. Ashby, and therefore, denies the allegations.”

A news release from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dated Oct. 3, 2009 announced Gerald Elbert Mortimer and wife Linda Gay McKinnon Mortimer as the president and matron, respectively, of the then-new Cebu City Philippines Temple, The Tribune has reported.

Gerald Mortimer previously served as president of the Philippines San Pablo Mission and was the area medical adviser for the Idaho Pocatello and Idaho Boise missions. Mortimer is originally from Payson, Utah, and his wife was born in Logan.