From time to time I’ve discussed the role of payment in ART. There’s a fundamental debate over the role of money, with some people (and some countries) staking out an anti-commodification position. By this I mean that they reject the idea of turning reproductive materials into a commodity that can be bought and sold. Canada takes such a stance and as a result, is in the midst of a sperm shortage.
By contrast, the US has what I think can fairly be described as a vibrant market for reproductive materials. By this I mean that you can buy gametes (eggs and sperm) quite easily. But even in the largely market oriented US, there’s a queasiness about full commodification. I’ve commented on this before. In particular, the ASRM (that’s the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, which is the most important professional organization in the field) has guidelines that suggest maximum compensation for those providing eggs. (This is the topic of the earlier post I linked to.)
Now if there’s a market for eggs and sperm (and it certainly looks like there is in the US) then it seems that setting a maximum price like that might prevent the proper operation of that market. And now, indeed, there’s an anti-trust suit that asserts just that. Someone has brought a class action anti-trust suit against the ASRM and some other defendants. (You can read the actual complaint here.)
My knowledge of anti-trust law is far from perfect, but I think this is actualy a claim of monopsony. The idea is that a powerful buyer uses its power to the determiment of sellers. (You can see this is something like the inverse of ordinary monopoly claims, where a powerful seller extracts concessions/prices from buyers.) Here the ASRM and the other defendants are the buyers and the plaintiff/sellers are women who are providing their eggs. But for the actions of the ASRM the market would function to determine the prices the women selilng their eggs would recieve.
I realize the ASRM offers altruistic justifications for the price cap. This is, however, exactly what I wrote about before and I simply find them unpersuasive. Paying women less does not make the transactions less degrading or problematic. It only makes the less remunerative for the women involved.
Does this ultimately benefit the ASRM? I don’t know if it actually does. (I also do not know if it is necessary to establish that it does in order to win the anti-trust lawsuit.) It at least keeps the cost of one component of ART (eggs) artificially low. That might make ART more affordable to people (which might increase its use, which would benefit ART providers) or it might mean ART providers get a larger profit margin.
In any event, it will be worth watching.