A little while back I wrote about concerns that we overpay women who provide eggs for ART. (I’m trying to steer clear of calling them “donors” since getting paid isn’t exactly consistent with “donating” the eggs.) In a nutshell, I don’t think that’s the right question to ask at all. You can go read that earlier post for the argument I offered.
Here’s an article from today’s New York Times that raises precisely this issue yet again. The article notes that the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) guideline’s set a maximum payment of $10,000. (This is set out in voluntary guidelines.) But a quarter of the ads surveyed by one researcher offered amounts in excess of $10,000. Some offered as much as $50,000.
The concern expressed by Dr. Aaron Levine, who is the author of the study quoted in the article, is that women will choose to provide eggs against their best interests. The more I think about this the more it’s bothering me.
The article actually raises a variety fo concerns. Some seem legitimate to me. For example, Dr. Levine suggests that some of the ads for high compensation are probably a form of bait-and-switch. That’s clearly a bad practice: A species of false advertising and unacceptable. And there’s some concern about whether women are properly informed of the risks involved in egg donation. Again, I think that’s a reasonable thing to worry about.
But as I said before, I don’t really see the concern about how much women are paid being legitimate. If it is risky and painful to provide eggs for ART, then shouldn’t the women who do this be well-paid? How can you argue that because it is dangerous a person should be paid less? We do not generally cap the salaries of people who do dangerous work on the grounds that it is dangerous.
As I think about it, the expressed concern about compensation troubles me in two ways. First, the premise seems to be that women will be so dazzled by numbers with lots of zeros that they’ll lose the capacity to make intelligent choices. I choose to think better of women than this. It seems to me simply condescending to say this.
Second, go and look at that article. It seems to me the real concern is that the wrong women are being tempted–fine young college women who are bright and intelligent. If you cap the money at $10,000 those women will be sensible and won’t offer their eggs. Problem solved.
But other women will offer their eggs for $10,000–women who aren’t lucky enough to be at Princeton or Yale, women who might need money for rent or to put food on the table. Shouldn’t we be just as worried about these women? And if we go down that path, than we shouldn’t be paying anyone for eggs.
I can understand this position–that we shouldn’t pay women for eggs at all. I don’t agree with it, but it seems to me to be a position of some integrity. But if all you’re worried about how much women are getting paid, then I think something else–something not nearly so principled–is going on.