January 14, 2007

Egg Donation, Eugenics, and Exploitation

Slate has posted documents from The Abraham Center of Life which contains various statements and claims pertaining to the egg "donation" process.

1. "Egg donation is a safe, simple, procedure that requires little more than several scheduled doctor appointments and the administration of fertility medication." I did not see where they might have nuanced this even a little. Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome is a real risk. Some of the symptoms will range from general discomfort to sever pain, infection, organ failure, and infertility.

2. An egg donor is "compensated for her time and commitment..." not for her eggs, of course.

3. "With recent breakthroughs in cryopreservation, or the freezing of eggs, for later use in infertility treatment, it is important that couples consider the use, storage, and disposal of excess embryos not used for the initial medical treatment. As these technologies progress, the period of time an embryo can be viably stored and used is likely to increase dramatically. Thus, the ultimate disposal and use of excess of eggs should also be considered prior to entering into an Egg Donation Contract." This facilitates opportunity for ECSR scientists to swoop in like hawks and steal a young mother's children for embryo-destructive research purposes.

4. "The egg retrieval/aspiration is performed in a hospital like facility using IV sedation." Isn't that just funny!?! They can't call an embryo an embryo - it's just a clump of cells. They can't even call a clinic a clinic, it's a "hospital like facility."

5.“Typically a donor fee will range from $3500 to $15,000. Additional compensation is offered to those donors who have earned a post-graduate degree; have a unique skill, characteristic, or trait; or is she has previously cycled with our program and her Couple achieved a pregnancy." This isn't just a 'good birth' that our society is striving for, it's the perfect birth. And sadly, so much weight is being placed on genetics, I can't help but wonder what expectations will be placed on these eu-genetically manipulated lives. Will parents of these designer babies believe that they have no responsibility in their ultimate outcome?

There are some basic facts that continue to be ignored. These young women are not just giving up eggs, they are selling their own offspring. Their egg is obviously not an embryo when it is harvested from her body, but the intent, the plan, the motivation is to fertilize her egg and create a child. This child is biologically hers - the egg donor's. No matter how these clinics and centers twist their message, that truth cannot be escaped. And now these women will have to live with the fact that they've sold their children in order to buy a car or pay off some bills - when and if they come to realize this truth. Where are the outraged feminists!?!?!


Anonymous said...

I agree that clinic are selling a service and therefore word things to their benefit. However, from your blog I can tell that you have never been faced with this issue of infertility and have not thought of the notion that some donors would donate in order to help those less fortunate like myself. I appreciate all that they go through to enable me to experience the miracle of birth. Please think about this from another angle before you criticize these women.

Sarah J. Flashing said...

Thank you for your comment, Anonymous. I'm sorry to have to inform you, however, that I do have experience with infertility, have gone through many of the treatments, suffered PID as a result of a part of the process, and did not achieve pregnancy until much later. So while I do have children now, I know the desperation associated with infertility. That being said, I also want to point out that the 'you've never been in my shoes' argument is fallacious and does not adequately undermine the ethical concerns. Our society's have-it-your-way-any-way-you-can philosophy is one which makes no room for ethical reflection. I'm sure some donors are interested in assisting those who are infertile. But also know, I'm not criticizing the donors, I'm actually very concerned for them, that they are being exploited by others for financial gain.

CanuckedBrit said...

I'm in Canada, you can't pay women for egg donation (Including for time and commitment). Some women still do it for altruistic reasons, although in less numbers.

I am concerned that the egg donors are being sold short in that, there is a lack of warning about risks for donors on webpages I've seen directed at the egg donors. Plus, I don't see studies on long term health risks. 40 years from now are there going to be a bunch of women who donated eggs facing higher risks for ovarian/cervical/breast cancer? I've considered donating. But I am very much concerned about the long term risks. However, if other women are comfortable with the possible risks, I don't see why they should be pitied. Consider that many of the donating women are married with children. I'm 26 with two children and plan on adopting more. We know we are done having more children biologically. Considerations to donating eggs came about knowing that others didn't conceive as easily as we did. I don't feel in the least that if I donated (in Canda), I wouldn't be selling my kids anymore than I would be if I had given my kids up for adoption. I'm giving others an opportunity to experience what I have experienced.

Anonymous said...

Actually, it's not egg donors that are being exploited, it's the infertile women who are the recipients and who often go into debt, sell their cars, take a second mortgage out on their home, or take a second job, together with their husband, who are exploited by the incredibly high fees that donors charge for their eggs, as well as the high fees that reproductive endocrinologists charge for their services -- usually not covered by insurance.

Remember that many of us are not career women who "forgot" to have a baby and who are trying to create a designer baby. Most of us are women who, for whatever reason, have non viable eggs. Some of us, myself included, are women of faith who waited until we met the right man, who kept ourselves to a high moral ground, determined not to have a child unless it was under the right circumstances, despite our intense longing for a child and the fear that comes with the passing years and knowing our chances are slipping away.

I am particularly offended by your attitude in light of the fact that you got your babies. Nice, huh? You are in NO WAY similar to me, a woman who has lost 7 pregnancies in the first trimester due to bad eggs, and who has NO chance of a baby of her own. You do not speak for me or to me, and you clearly have NO understanding of the anguish of intractable infertility.

For shame.

You should spend some time on some donor egg forums and get to know the women there before you make such uninformed judgments.

Another Anon

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous,

Your comment is two years old, but it made me so angry I am writing back although I doubt you will ever see it. You are horrible! Infertile women are "exploited by the incredibly high fees that donors charge for their eggs"? As though you have a right to someone else's genetically material, that is extracted from her body at great risk!

I received $10,000 for donating my eggs, and I regret it. It was so hard that I took that sum and divided it by the number of injections I had to give myself, and I would say that number to myself every time I stabbed a needle into my stomach and worried about dying of cancer, or not being able to have my own children. I wouldn't have done it for less; I shouldn't have done it even for more. How much would you want to be paid to live in fear as you question this dangerous decision you've made, that you're now bound to by a contract (if you stop mid-cycle, you can owe the agency as much as $25,000 in damages) -- and then to spend the rest of your life wondering? To wait until your own biological clock hits and then wonder if you've screwed yourself because of a poor decision you made in your early twenties, full of ambition, saddled with student loans, trying to get away from some no-good guy, wanting to go to grad school, or whatever seemed like a good reason at the time.

"Exploited" by having to pay someone else for their eggs! You think you own young women's bodies, genetic material, fertility? You think you have a right to carry someone else's children because you "kept yourself to high moral ground"?

We should "get to know" the women on egg donor forums and we'd see how unlikable they are? Maybe you think they didn't hold themselves to "high moral ground"? People who are doing difficult, terrible things harden themselves, they get flippant. You probably would've hated me when I was a donor -- yet you might have used my eggs to create a baby you'd then raise to continue to hate women like me. And *you're* exploited?

You should be ashamed. Your tragedy does not make you entitled to other women's bodies and genetic legacies. The world does not owe you eggs.

You are a "woman of faith" -- is it not true that God doesn't give you anything you can't handle? Maybe you could "handle" it without deeming yourself entitled to the future children of other women you apparently hold in contempt.


p.s. I know you will likely never see this, but maybe the site administrator will, and will open a new discussion. I'm glad you prompted me to say this to some small corner of the world.

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