Back To the Egg Market

A couple of recent posts have focused on the market for eggs, as distinct for the market from sperm.   This story prompts me to return to the topic again. 

It’s really in the category of “not news” I suppose.   Apparently there was a bill pending in the Oklahoma legislature that would have made it illegal for a woman to sell her eggs.   (It still would have been permissible for her to donate them.)   It seems the bill isn’t going to get a hearing in committee this session, which means that the legislation will not move forward. 

In fact, I find the article a bit confusing.   I cannot tell exactly what it is the sponsor of the bill is trying to accomplish.  It’s also interesting that the opposition figure quoted, who labels the bill “anti-family,” which is one of those phrases I tend to associate with those opposed to ART.   But even with this confusion, the article clarified one point I think I’d tried to get across before.  

The sponsor of the bill is Representative Rebecca Hamilton and here is what the article has to say:  

“The bill would ban women from selling eggs but would still let them donate them, Hamilton said. She said there is no way to defend a practice in which women endanger their lives so doctors can profit.

“These doctors are treating these women like farm animals, and they are harvesting their ovaries,” Hamilton said.”

In general I think I understand her argument, but the argument leads me in exactly the opposite direction.    The ART industry is a distinctly for-profit industry.   Those who provide services, say IVF with donor eggs, are clearly  making money off of the operation.   But to do so, they need the eggs.   

To me it doesn’t make sense to say that women can donate their eggs (and therefore get nothing of value in return) so that others can then turn them around for profit.  I’d much sooner see women getting paid for their eggs.  

Now of course, I do worry about exploitation of women.   And I don’t really want to see women treated as cattle.   But it seems to me these are problems to be addressed by regulation rather than by prohibition.     It’s seems much too likely to me that prohibiting sale will do little more than drive business to other states and perhaps even create a shadow market in Oklahoma.  Isn’t that what we could learn from the Canadian experience?


6 responses to “Back To the Egg Market

  1. What the women do for the clinics is conceive offspring artificially for the exclusive custody of the clinic’s customers.

    The ban is probably based on flawed logic, equating the service the women are performing with the illegal selling of ones own body parts for profit.

    What they are selling is their offspring in the very earliest stages of life, before birth. The only way for her embryo to change hands at that early stage is for conception to occur outside her body rather than inside; which means the egg must be outside rather than inside. There is no egg transplant surgery, like there is with livers and kidneys and eyes.

    If women are not paid then they are donating their children to people who they believe will give their offspring a good life in order for infertile people to experience the joy of raising a child. Kind of wierd, but I can’t say I think it should be illegal. Getting paid for that is kind of distasteful, but I’m not really qualified to judge anyone’s moral character. If anything I would equate the clinic to a pimp, and in that instance I would much rather see the money go directly to the anonymous women without any middle man fees or mark-up where they could capitalize on the misfortune of the anonymous women.

  2. I believe I once wrote about this with regard to surrogacy: To limit the potential for exploitation, it is the broker that must be either outlawed or strictly regulated. I would suggest that it should be illegal for the broker to receive more than 10 percent of the egg provider’s fee, for their expenses.
    Interesting comparison to a pimp. I rather agree with that categorization, as I would also legalize prostitution but crack down on pimping if it were up to me.

    • I think you did say this before and I’ve come to appreciate the point more and more. It seems to me unreasonable to tell women they can give but not receive compensation. But at the same time, the potential for exploitation is apparent. It does seem that the way to address that is to scrutinze the broker or reseller.

      I think it is useful to extend this analysis to surrogacy, too. If I think about fertility tourism in India, it isn’t the women who are getting paid that disturbs me. It’s whoever is running the larger enterprise which I suspect is making a ton of money of the labor of the women.

  3. marilynn huff

    Sara – here here.
    Cause doesnt it cost a couple like 50K to bring a baby home if the guy conceives with an anonymous woman thru the clinic and doesnt the anonymous woman get like $8K? I’d want to see the time cards of the Lab Techs and stuff, I just don’t think they put in $42,000 worth of hours before the first trimester draws to a close. I think they are way over your 10% cap (which I think is quite reasonable actually)

  4. Well, I had in mind 10% of the egg donor’s fee which is usually around 10,000 or so, and 1,000 isn’t much to cover the retrieval, so my formula may actually leave them operating at a loss. But the idea is the same.

  5. … this also relates to the “Raffle” which was discussed earlier and the extreme distaste it evoked. Part of the problem is that the profit motive leads companies to advertise their “product” and the purpose of advertising is to CREATE demand, not to meet it.

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