In 2018 — Wendi Babst, a retired detective, decided to finally send in a commercial DNA test kit she had purchased the year before to learn more about her family tree. She learned her biological father was actually a doctor who impregnated his patients.
Babst discovered she had half-siblings she was never aware of. In addition, she learned the man who raised her was not her biological father.
She soon discovered that man was the late Dr. Quincy Fortier, a renowned fertility specialist her mother had seen in Las Vegas, Nevada, decades earlier.
“I was so angry with him,” Babst, 54, of Oregon, revealed to PEOPLE. “All I could picture was my sweet little mom. That broke my heart worse than anything.”
But Babst was not the only one. Babst painstakingly learned how Fortier, a noted OB/GYN who died in 2006 at 94, impregnated dozens of other women using his sperm without their knowledge or consent over the course of four decades.
Her story is explored in the upcoming HBO documentary, Baby God, which airs on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET. Directed by Hannah Olson and executive produced by Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, the film follows Babst as she unearths Fortier’s dark secrets.
“Do you want to say your father was a monster?” Babst says in the film. “And what does that say about you?”
Babst has since learned in her research that she has 23 half-siblings throughout the country, whose ages range from 30-something to 70-something.
The documentary includes interviews with Fortier’s family members, colleagues as well as patients he impregnated without their knowledge or consent — including Babst’s mother as well as some of his children who are learning who their biological father really is.
Similar to his half-sister, Brad Gulko, who has a PhD in human genomics and population genetics, was floored when he learned that Fortier is his biological father.
“On the one hand, because of my academic background, I have a little more balanced perspective about genetics being destiny,” he says. “I feel like genomics is a predisposition, but it’s not destiny.”
“But I also realized in that moment, ‘Oh my goodness, this isn’t an abstract thing, this is me. This has happened to me. And I now have an entirely different branch of the family I have to consider. And I don’t know how my father’s branch of the family will consider me.'”
A producer on the PBS show, Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Olson originated the idea for a documentary on Fortier after filming an episode with rap superstar LL Cool J when he discovered the man he called his grandfather was not his biological grandfather.
“I started to wonder what that might feel like for a person,” she says. “Midway through life, to realize that the man who raised you or who you thought was your father is actually not your biological father. And then, does it matter?”
“So often, crime stories focus on the perpetrator and the crime and not what happens afterward. In this case, I really wanted to show the victims of this particular crime and how painful, circuitous, and unfinished that journey is. In this case, because it’s a genetic crime, it goes on forever and ever and ever.”
Olson additionally focuses on Fortier’s motives regarding his fathering methods.
“I also think he never thought he would be found out. It was a perfect crime in a lot of ways, but I also think it was a crime of convenience. It’s important to remember that there were no frozen sperm then, and there were no sperm banks.”
That being said, Babst has her own opinion on Fortier’s motives.
“I think it was a power, control [issue],” she says. “I think he had curiosity. I honestly think he was experimenting to a degree and had for many years. I think he had some sense that he was helping people, but for his own narcissistic reasons — helping people on the way to fulfilling his other achievements.”
She advises anyone who is considering a DNA test to discover more information about their family tree to keep an open mind.
“I want them to go in with their eyes open,” she says.
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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