Another Look at the Egg Market

Here’s a recent story that revisits some familiar ground.   I’ve written before (a number of times though not for quite a while) about the market for gametes in the US.   This story reports a recent study that shows that many US organizations recruiting egg donors aren’t adhering to ethical standards.   That’s something that ought to worry us, I think.

As the article notes:

Ethical standards set forth by the ASRM specify that donors should be at  least 21 years old, and those between ages 18 and 20 should receive a  psychiatric evaluation first.

Also, women are not to be paid for their eggs but compensated, equally, for  their time. Donor traits such as college grades or previous successful donations  should not result in higher payment.

I’m going to focus on the concerns underlying the second paragraph.   It seems to me that for many people the idea that women are being compensated for their time and not their eggs seems non-obvious.   Isn’t it true that at the next stage in the business someone is actually buying the eggs?   (I guess I am not sure about this–I have never purchased eggs.  And I’m not sure if you pay for the eggs separately from the IVF that is also necessary.)

Certainly with sperm you pay (or you used to pay) per straw of sperm.   If you wanted more straws you paid more.   I can understand that the structure of the egg market might have been different when only fresh (as opposed to frozen) eggs could be used.  But as frozen eggs become a possibility, I wonder if the market structure won’t become more like that for sperm.

Be that as it may, I think many people think women are selling their eggs and certainly it seems like someone is making money (if not the women producing the eggs then the vendor) selling them in the end.   But there are important reasons why we might want to say the woman is being paid for time and trouble.  For one thing, that means all women should be paid the same amount–whether viable eggs result or not.   Whether they are from a rare ethnicity or not.

The question of what we can pay for and how we pay for it is a tough one.    We cannot get away from the reality of supply and demand, no matter what we say women are being paid for.  Surely it is true that if you offer more money, more women will agree to provide eggs.  And that’s true whether you say the money is for their time/trouble or for the eggs themselves.

Which brings me to the part about donor traits–a subject which really does warrant a totally separate discussion.  Imagine someone wants eggs from a Jewish woman.   They might want these because according to some rabbis, Judaism is genetic and determined maternally, so only a child from Jewish eggs (if eggs can be Jewish) will produce a Jewish child.     Let’s imagine, though, that Jewish women are underrepresented in the pool of women currently providing eggs.   (I have no idea if this is true.)   Someone wanting a Jewish woman to step forward might decide to offer a bonus–on the basic theory that there are some women who wouldn’t provide eggs at price X but might provide eggs at price 2X.  (This seems like it must be true.)

That’s exactly the behavior that the ASRM wants to discourage.   That’s one of the areas in which people aren’t playing by the rules.  But you can see why it happens, can’t you?   And once you’ve entered into the world of the marketplace–which you have with the whole idea of having women paid to provide eggs–what’s wrong with it?   It’s not a reflection of a general preference for Jewish eggs.   (In this way it is perhaps unlike a premium paid for blonds or tall women or something like that.)    It’s the reflection of a shortage that has an impact on a small number of people.

It’s easy for me to agree that the problems with counselling and the like are serious and must be addressed, but it seems to me that the issues around compensation are a bit more difficult to sort through.



38 responses to “Another Look at the Egg Market

  1. There’a a question whether one needs a Jewish egg to have a Jewish child or whether the child has to be born through a Jewish birth canal. Rabbis disagree.

    Aren’t red headed men similarly disadvantaged in the sperm market?

    • I think it makes no difference ethically as to whether the payment is for the product or for the time.

      • There is one way in which I think it might make a difference. Suppose a woman goes through the whole process but in the end, for some unforeseen reason, her eggs cannot be used. Should she be compensated? I do think she should be. You could say not and surely this would change the willingness of women to try to provide eggs–because of the risk that they’d fail and get nothing. Or you could have a hybrid system where there was some base compensation for time/trouble and then perhaps a bonus?

        Some of these issues really can be separated out. So you could pay an extra premium for a woman in an under-represented group, but the payment could be for time/trouble rather than eggs. What I mean is the question of what you pay for is separate from the question of offering premiums.

        • Yes but then can’t we say the same thing about them deserving to be compensated whether or not they agree to create offspring for others to raise? What if she is willing to go through the process and does but backs out and refuses to allow her eggs to be fertilized? They can have the eggs they just cannot make a baby with them that she’s not allowed to keep. Should she still be compensated based on that very same line of thinking that she should be paid for the time it takes to donate regardless whether she’s willing to sell her parental title or not.

          • I see what you are saying and if the law were uniform that being genetically related was what made you a parent then it would be logically sound. But (and this is hardly coincidence) being genetically related is NOT what makes you are legal parent in these situations. Thus, the woman who provides eggs and the man who provides sperm are not selling their status as legal parent or their legal parental rights, because they have no such rights to sell.

            This isn’t coincidence–it’s the whole point of the way this bit of law was structured. This is where there is a special rule of law providing for ART and it does exactly what is needed to make the transaction legally acceptable.

            I understand that from your point of view the genetically related woman is the mother of the child, but that isn’t what the law provides here. So whatever we think she is selling or being compensated for, it isn’t for her parental rights.

            • From my point of view I see quite clearly multiple examples of where legal parenthood does turn on genetics alone. I am pointing those out.

              In California the law says that the woman who gives birth is the mother – or the woman who is genetically related. There is a fairly famous case where the woman who gave birth was not related and the genetically related woman won what I think is the obvious right to be named as the mother of her own child. You have even quoted the case although I can’t recall it now. Also the US government says that people are the parents of their own offspring with regard to determining citizenship of people born abroad. Also the Uniform Parentage Act says that a positive paternity test makes a man a father. Millions of men pay child support as the result of paternity suits. Lots of married men have disestablished paternity, gotten themselves un-named as fathers of their wives children because the law allows them to prove that they are not the child’s father with prove that they are not genetically related to the child.

              “I understand that from your point of view the genetically related woman is the mother of the child, but that isn’t what the law provides here. ”

              No your not playing fair and you don’t get to say that. I know that the UPA says sperm donors are not legally obligated as fathers, but it says no such thing about egg donors. In fact the law in my state says that the mother of a child is either the woman who gives birth or the genetically related woman and there was a very famous case here about a woman that won the right to be named as the mother of her own child that was gestated by someone else. You have even quoted that case I just can’t recall it at the moment.

              I’m pointing out where the law uses dna testing to prove who the parents are and obligates them accordingly and then pointing out these practices or other laws which are inconsistent with those laws. You can’t say that its just me and my point of view. There is an entire boutique industry dedicated to the proposition that people must not rely upon clinic waiver forms signed by egg donors, but should rather have formal legal contracts with the recipients themselves specifically covering her agreement to not raise her own offspring and to allow the recipient to be named as mother of her offspring. Its pretty clear that the egg donor has the upper hand in the situation regarding the child and parental obligations/rights. The recipient couple needs her signed consent to fertilize her egg and to gestate the embryo and to raise the resulting child. She does not have to agree to allow any of that. Its her egg her embryo and her parental obligation to the resulting child.

              The recipient female gets to experience pregnancy and motherhood at the discretion of the couple who reproduced and are the genetic parents of the resulting child. The recipient woman has no legal ‘right’ to be pregnant with another woman’s embryo. The recipient female has no right to force her husband to allow her to gestate and deliver an embryo created by him fertilizing another woman’s egg. If they divorced he would have every right to not allow her to be pregnant with frozen embryos he created with an egg donor during their marriage. He could hire a surrogate or give them to his next wife to gestate. So I hardly think its fair for you to say that the law totally ignores genetics and that the egg donor is not selling parental rights.

              She won’t get paid unless she signs the paper that says she gives up her parental rights Julie. Speak to that. To say they are not selling parental rights smells of cop out. The object of the waivers at the clinic and the object of the weightier contracts that lawyers like spin doctor make a living drafting is the donor’s offspring. She agrees not to raise her offspring. The law may say sperm donors are not fathers (which is so so discriminatory from the standpoint of every person being born with equal rights) but the law does not say the same thing about egg donors not being mothers. Nope. I’ve been paying attention.

    • Right about the rabbis. But I gather enough insist on the Jewish woman providing the egg that it creates a special market for eggs from Jewish women.

      Red-headed men are disadvantaged in some but not all markets.

      Some people do want sperm from red-headed men–and I would assume it it is mostly women who have red-hair in their families (husband or partner or something like that) who want a recognizable link between child and husband/partner. Maybe some are acting purely on esthetics, but I’m a little doubtful of that. But in some parts of the world there are lots of red-headed men offering to provide sperm. So you get an over-supply. I suppose this means you could sell the sperm more cheaply, but what I think it more typically means is that red-headed prospective donors are turned away. In other parts of the world, though, the supply of red-heads doesn’t meet demand–so you’d see something different happen.

      Though I may not be a big fan of economic analysis in every setting, it seems to me that this is one where it is quite useful in thinking things through.

  2. “But there are important reasons why we might want to say the woman is being paid for time and trouble.”
    So let’s be clear here – the industry wants it to be crystal clear to the public that women are NOT SELLING THEIR EGGS OR THEIR CHILDREN. They are being paid for their time and trouble.

    Time and trouble to DO what exactly? Time and trouble to donate their eggs? I agree with what you said which is
    “For one thing, that means all women should be paid the same amount–whether viable eggs result or not.”

    I agree with that statement more than I have ever agreed with you, I’m sure. Because if they are being paid the same for the time it takes to donate and not the volume or quality of the egg then why should it even matter if the eggs are fertile? Why should we worry about the egg donors age after 18 and before 21? If all that she is doing is donating an egg it means she does not have to give her permission to reproduce herself. It means she does not have to allow another woman to gestate her embryos. It means she certainly does not have to abandon her parental obligations to her offspring. All they are paying for is the time it takes her to donate her eggs. What they get to do with those eggs is entirely up to her. If all egg donors are equal and all they are after is the egg and not her reproduction and all they are after is her egg and not the experience of being pregnant with her embryo and all they are after is her egg and not the ability to raise her offspring without her interference – then I don’t see why they even bother screening these women.

    They can have all kinds of eggs out of me so long as they never use them for reproductive purposes, never gestate one of my embryos and I certainly would never allow someone else to take over and claim to be the mother of my offspring so sure I am more than willing to donate my eggs and get paid for my time. If you promise to do more than just donate your eggs and you are paid for the time it takes you to do those things then your being paid to reproduce, let someone be pregnant with your kid and give up your parental obligations and responsibilities. And the really gauling part of all this is that they actually sign agreements more so with egg donors than with sperm donors but both actually sign agreements saying they waive all their parental obligations and give up their offspring “in exchange for valuable consideration” and the whole world turns a blind eye and says all they are doing is selling an egg or some sperm. If that was no bad enough then you have people trying to say they are not even selling the egg. Works for me because it proves what she is selling is services and not a body part because without her express permission to reproduce and abandon her offspring there would be no point in buying her fertile Yale graduate blond jewish eggs anyway.

    Whether they are from a rare ethnicity or not.”

    • The ASRM standard (which the article says is not the uniform practice) is that you are paid for time/trouble to go through the whole process which means you are paid whether your eggs can be used or not, whether there is one egg or ten. There are several reasons you might choose this manner of compensation. It might help get away from issues of commodification–because the eggs themselves aren’t being purchased. (I do have to wonder about this if later on they are sold.) It also helps with concerns about exploitation/concern for the women providing eggs because their compensation is only contingent on their participation not their success as egg-producers.

  3. Bottom line is that they don’t want her egg, they want her offspring. Taking her eggs is the most sanitary and least emotional way to take her offspring so they can raise them as if they were their own. The bonus is that they get to experience pregnancy and put their names on the birth records and also there is no disinterested third party checking out WHY the minor child is not being raised by his or her bio parents – they do that in adoption to vet situations exactly like this where the bio parent is paid not to take care of their own offspring, child selling, selling of parental title, trafficking, black market adoption. The disinterested 3rd party also checks out the background of the people that want to raise the minor to adulthood and then it all has to be approved in court by a judge. Again the whole purpose of adoption is to figure out why someone won’t be raised by their bio parents to prevent this exact thing from happening where bio parents are paid not to raise their offspring. All minors deserve the benefit of such an independant 3rd party investigation if they are not raised by their bio parents to ensure that their bio parents did not make them specifically to be given away and raised by others, manufacturing people for sale. All minors deserve the benefit of the independent 3rd party review of the back grounds of the people who wish to raise them to make sure that they did not pay someone to make a baby for them to raise. And yet it goes on here with what is called gamete donation, when the donor promises infinitely more than just a gamete, they promise not to raise their children born of those gametes; and it goes on with surrogacy of the traditional and gestational kind whenever a bio mother signs a contract agreeing not to raise her child. It is to me so much a violation of these people’s human dignity to be sold and have their identities falsified. I don’t understand how this country prides itself on leading the world in freedom and justice for all when we are still so backward and barbaric as to be contracting away our obligations to the young we create. I’ll never stop trying to help put a stop to this practice that compromises everyone’s right to be born free.

    • For me (and for many of us) there’s a meaningful difference between providing an egg for IVF and giving up a child for adoption. I think the focus on DNA can blur or even erase the difference, which I find really troubling. Surely the experience of giving a child up for adoption is quite different from the experience of providing an egg for IVF.

      I don’t mean that there are no similarities–there may well be some. But there are also huge differences. Given these differences it seems to me quite right that the law and the culture generally treat these practices distinctly rather than treating them as essentially the same.

      • “Surely the experience of giving a child up for adoption is quite different from the experience of providing an egg for IVF.”

        Wait. What? Are you not the woman who adamantly states that not everyone ‘experiences’ the same actions in the same way? You believe the experience of some donor offspring should not ruin a good thing for everyone by changing the law, yet the experience that some women ‘may have’ during pregnancy and upon giving up a child for adoption is somehow more worthy of building the black and white of law around?

        How a person came to have offspring in the world is really besides the point to the offspring because they were not even alive for that pregnancy experience. They were not interacting with the pregnant woman, they are still developing all the mental and physical tools they will need in order to bond with whoever takes care of them. If they could process and learn and bond with people in utero they’d be born sooner right? They are not ready to bond before they can even latch on and suck. That’s why your whole theory of care giving does count – you think I think it does not but of course it does. If a woman adopts a child at birth, and raises that child to adulthood she will be the only mother figure that person has because of her caregiving effort. The connection between a person and their biological family is just biology that’s it and nothing more unless they actually do something more like raise them. But there is an obvious duty for people to raise their offspring it is evident every where we look and in so many of our laws that make people who never wanted to raise kids take care of them anyway. How can we look to these disenfranchised groups of people and expect that they not feel slighted when their biological parents were not made to take care of them as other people’s parents were made to? And how can we expect them not to feel slighted when an utter stranger wanted to care for them when their own parents did not? And how can we expect them to think they are any less the biological child of a woman who did not give birth than they are of a man who did not give birth or their uncle or sister who did not give birth. It really is not the effort that defines the biological relationship, its the biology and it is important for many reasons even when those people do nothing at all they are still relevant because they are their family of origin to which they belong even when they are uninvited.

        How we experience biological relatedness should be irrellevant to a law concerned with stuff like child welfare. They don’t care how all those men experienced fatherhood before attaching their wages for back child support.

        • If your point is that I need to allow for human variation, it’s well taken. I should say something more like “I would suspect that for the vast majority of women the experience of giving a child up for adoption is quite different from the experience of providing an egg for IVF.” (In truth, there won’t be a huge number of women who have had both experiences, but this won’t mean there aren’t people with opinions–just as I have opinions, of course.)

          I really do think this point is fairly obvious. Granted that providing eggs for IVF is intrusive and involves taking various fertility drugs. It still seems to me a far cry from being pregnant and carrying a child to term and then giving birth to it. Agreeing to do one for money is, it seems to me, quite different from agreeing to do the other.

          I suppose I think of it this way–if someone said “we’d like you to do one or the other, but we’re not sure which” how many women would be indifferent to which it turned out to be? How many would say ‘Oh, fine, whatever?” I’m not thinking it’s very many–I think most would say they need to know which of those things they are being asked to do, which, it seems to me, suggests that the two experiences are meaningfully different to most women.

          And at the risk of going on too long (maybe I’ve already done that) I disagree with your statement that the developing embryo doesn’t interact with the pregnant woman. I think that’s just wrong. There’s complicated interaction there–it’s the whole basis of what I think might now be called origin science. I cannot tell you what it ultimately means, but there’s clearly interaction on a variety of levels.

          • Well what I think is that you can look at a surrogacy price list and see that gestational carriers are paid less than traditional surrogates who donate both their eggs and agree to gestate and deliver.

            Funny thing Julie, the egg donors agreements and contracts contain all the same language about giving up the child and they even go so far as to say that if the State should require it, the donor agrees to give her offspring up for adoption.

  4. We used an egg donor. No regrets. My 25 year old daughter (from a long ago relationship) has been an egg donor twice. She enjoyed the experience and has no regrets. So, my family has seen and experienced egg donation from both sides. Again, no regrets.

    • It’s good to hear about positive experiences. It seems clear to me (yes, I know others disagree) that the process can work and does work for many people. It is also clear to me that it can be a bad experience–I think it’s important to have safeguards in place for that reason.

    • Would you welcome contact from your grandchildren some day?
      Have you ever been concerned that your grandchildren might inadvertently date their cousins aunts uncles etc living in the same region?
      How would you feel about the biological mother of the children you gave birth to initiating contact with them? If not the bio mother herself, what if one of their the child’s other maternal relatives initiated contact with them?

  5. Julie – the same happens in adoption and the trend is becoming widespread. White is premium price, bi-racial is less, African American is the least expensive. Exactly the same services – same agency – different cost.

    I think it is abhorent – either adoption or egg “donation”… a human is a human, and no one is more valuable than the other simply because of their race.

    • I don’t mean to come across as a hopeless capitalist, but I feel torn about this. On the one hand, you are clearly right. Differential pricing in adoption or gamete supply (not formally pricing for the child, of course, but can we ignore the reality?) is appalling. It’s just as you say.

      But it’s also true that people often want children who will have similar racial or ethnic identities as they do. Which means they have to locate an egg donor or sperm donor or a child available for adoption who has that identity. That can be very difficult. I’ve heard, for example, that providing gametes is not widely accepted in Japan, which means that finding gametes from a Japenese provider is harder. If you pay a person hourly to search for you, you end up paying more. Is that wrong? And if you have to offer a little more money to induce the person to provide gametes, is that wrong?

      Maybe it is, but somehow when I think about it this way, it’s at least less instantly appalling. (I know I dropped into only talking about gametes–that’s less appalling, too.)

      So I see what you’re saying and in some way I agree, but i also wonder whether once we put money in play we can hold the line.

  6. It matters hugely for donors to have their expenses covered – and I’m not happy about the sneering tone that’s used in some of these responses.

    I donated three times. I donated my eggs – I couldn’t afford to donate my time as well given I was in a fairly lowly part-time admin job at the time. In order to do that I had to have significant amounts of time off work, travel to a clinic nearly 2 hours away, use my holiday for the collection procedure and go through something fairly unpleasant on top. And people think I shouldn’t have had my rail fare repaid because that’s an incentive? That refunding receipted expenses is the same as payment?

    Even accounting for the fact that things are different in the US, what planet are you on?

    • I know that your probably the most ethical donor at the time of retrieval I’ve spoken to. But Kris level with us, did you really take unpaid time off work? Were you compensated the very same amount you lost from not working so that you were reimbursed for lost wages rather than making money by going through the process?

      Would they have reimbursed you for your time to give your eggs had you not also been willing to give up the children you reproduced to create? It is more about the child than the egg then really is it not? The egg is just the means by which they will attain your offspring.

      • Yes I used my vacation for the collection and recovery. I wasn’t compensated for the time I lost. At the time the rules on compensation in the UK were different than they are now but I didn’t even realise I could ask. And yes, only the expenses I handed in receipts for were given back to me. That’s how it was here at the time.

        The cultural landscape around donation in the UK seems very different from the US, is all I can say. It’s much more commercial in the US. But the UK donors I know have all done this and some haven’t even claimed back their travel expenses – I’m really not unusual and I’m not sure why you think I would lie about it.

        As for the vacation issue, I could have used those days to do something that was actually fun, or resting from work, rather than having a collection and recovering from it. So strictly speaking I didn’t lose money – but I did lose two days of holiday. I know donors who are parents who also had to use their leave allowance to take time off to go to the clinic – time they could have spent with their family. You really think that doesn’t deserve to be compensated?

        If I hadn’t given the time to give my eggs I wouldn’t have been donating at all. I donated to give my eggs to a couple who wanted to have a baby, not for the joy and fun of the drug regime or the collection.

        I hate the way you assume donors are all in it for the money. That’s evidenced by the many other countries where there are donors (admittedly, many fewer) who donate for expenses not payment. Try looking beyond the US and seeing how different things could be.

        • Kris, Again I think that you were more mindful than any other woman I’ve spoken to at the time of donation.

          I’m challenging your thought process because you came here to weigh in on the conversation and state your beliefs based on your experiences. I do think that payment must be a motivating factor in unknown donation because why else would anyone decide to help people who can’t conceive by allowing them to raise one of their offspring? Donors don’t know the people from Adam probably would not let strangers who needed a place to crash water their plants and watch their cat for a week while they were on vacation but they give them a whole human being sight unseen. Its a very tall order for you and your family to give up your kin when there is a chance you may never meet. The compensation must appeal to people at a low point where what they are to give up must seem quite abstract at the moment. There is one circumstance in father’s I’ve encountered in 2 reunions: they were doctors did not do it for the money, they did it because they wanted to have kids. They did not know if they would be able to with their wives. One actually ended up adopting before he found his kids who were born of his donations to patients of other doctors in the same medical office.

          In that way they thought they’d be sure to have kids and they would find them later.

          I can’t see where someone would give up their offspring to be nice and helpful. Most people have a pretty deep regard for the concept of life you do seem to. I’m just probing because its a rare opportunity to get the insight of a donor who does not regret it but is willing to talk.

          • You keep assuming a) that people are being paid for anonymous donations, which they weren’t in this country until April, yet 1500 people a year donated anyway and b) that payment is exactly the same thing as having your expenses covered. Giving back receipted expenses means the process is cost-neutral for the donor, not a for-profit activity.

            My family supported me. I told them beforehand. As for your question about ‘why would donors help if they weren’t paid’ well I am trying to tell you and you don’t seem to believe my answers are good enough or that I must be hiding something because what I say doesn’t meet your expectations. For my second and third donations in my local city of Leeds it cost me £150 both times in rail and taxi fares. Even if that money was given to me over and above what it had cost – which it wasn’t – do you really think $200 is enough to motivate people to donate?

            I’ve talked to a lot of both male and female donors from the UK and pretty much the one thing we have in common is that they donated because they knew a couple with fertility problems and knew how painful it was to live with.

            You might well argue that this motivation excludes the donor-conceived people and that’s true, it does. Raising awareness about that is what clinic counselling is supposed to be for, amongst other things. And with the law in the UK being what it is, donors are told clearly that they are identifiable to the adult conceived from their eggs or sperm and it does put some people off. The ones who donate anyway do so because they’ve considered it and don’t have a problem with it.

            Just because things are the way they are in the US doesn’t mean it has to be like that everywhere, or that the same things that motivate people in a culture where an activity is paid will motivate them where it isn’t paid. Of course if an activity is unpaid, the people who do it don’t have payment as one of their motivations, that must be obvious.

            • Kris the topic of the post was the market for eggs. Compensation etc. That is why I’m commenting upon it. I am hearing you loud and clear: egg donation in the UK is really and truly altruistic and they are reimbursed for out of pocket expenses only. Got it.

    • so you used your holiday? Is that England’s way of saying vacation? Like paid vacation? Or unpaid vacation?

    • If unpaid vacation you were not loosing any wages right? If paid vacation you were not loosing any wages either right? So you did profit from the sale of your reproduction rather than simply being paid for hours you would normally have worked.

      I don’t think you sold your eggs though.

      • I’m not sure why you’re so concerned about itemizing all the uncompensated expenses. Quite apart from work you might or might not miss, there’s enormous time and trouble involved in being an egg donor. It can be painful and it can be dangerous (which actually leads to another whole topic–are people properly counselled about risks–but let’s put that aside. I really wouldn’t have a hard time compensating women for all this.

        Marilyn–I think from your point of view there’s very little distinction between the egg and the child that may eventually result. That makes sense because the DNA is so important to you and that’s the same in both cases. But for many people–and perhaps for Kriss–there’s a difference between the egg and the child that may eventually result.

        If a person views these as two quite different things, then some of your questions are less inteligible. The donor doesn’t give up a child–there is no child to give up. There’s only an egg. Granted, the egg has the potential to grow into something else, if properly fertilized and transferred and all that. But it is still an egg.

        • You just will not acknowledge that the egg donor agreement deals with giving up the child specifically. The child is way more discussed in the agreement than the egg.

          • You’re right–I will not acknowledge that, but this is because I do not think itis an accurate statement. The woman who provides the egg does not and have any right to claim legal parentage of the resulting child–thus, she isn’t giving that up.

            I would agree (if this helps) that she is agreeing to participate in a process in which her egg will be used for reproduction and that she will have no legal status as a parent vis-a-vis the child that results.

            I think there’s a small (but important) distinction here. Think about why she does not become a legal parent. It is not because she has made an agreement not to be a legal parent–which seems to me to be what you are saying. It is because of the process being used and the way the law is structured. Under this process the egg provider does not become a legal parent. She agrees to play a crucial part in that process.

            I’m sure there are other ways to make the same point. Basically it is the difference between agreeing to give something up (which is how you are saying it and which requires you to have the thing) and agreeing that you will never acquire something (which is what I’m saying–and the point I insist on is that she never had the right you refer to.)

            • Except she would have that right if she didn’t sign the agreement, wouldn’t she? She has to formally consent to her eggs being used to make a child that she will not have rights to. Her eggs just can’t be taken and given to someone else with that consent. I don’t have a problem with legality of egg and sperm donors (I plan to use a sperm donor myself), but I do believe they are giving up their parental rights.

              • sorry, that should say “without that consent”

              • yup. Were it not for their willingness to give up and hand over their offspring once born, there would be no desire for their eggs or their sperm.
                Willing donors want to reproduce. They want offspring in the world but do not want to raise them and don’t particularly care who does. People who want to raise all of their own offspring do not give up their gametes because it would mean consenting to let other people raise their kids without their involvement.

                Those kids if told will some day be old enough to comprehend that their biological parent wanted to reproduce but did not care who raised them and did not care if they even ever met them. By that time a person most definately exists which gives depth and meaning to the agreements signed by donors. If and when there is a baby born their agreement kicks in and its their duty under the terms of the contract to abandon their offspring and go along with the idea that the child is someone else’s responsibility. That is cold as hell from the standpoint of the person being given up. Would it matter to you if the people who raised you wanted you so badly they were willing to underwrite your abandonment by a bio parent? Wanted. Yes. Very. They are just suppose to overlook the fact that one of their bio parents had to not want them in order for someone else to have the opportunity to raise them.

                As great as a social parent can be, often far better than the bio parent they replace, a bio parent still has to fail his or her child before someone else can have a chance to do a great job. Some kind of permission needs to be obtained from the bio parent and to handle that permission in a private contract with no disinterested third party to ensure that the bio parent was not compensated is bad because it makes humans the object of commercial transactions. We know what that means.

            • Do you understand that there are people in this world who are the objects of those agreements and contracts? They are living breathing people and where those contracts are signed by their bio parents and those bio parents sign in agreement agreeing to give over their parental rights to their offspring, they are talking about a real person their own offspring. These people have to live with the knowledge that those documents exist and that they were the object of an exchange – something of value for something of value. They were the object of a commercial trade and they are human. They know the object of the contract is not the egg because it says so. The irony of intended parents telling these people how very wanted they were is that they don’t doubt that they were wanted they know the person that did not want them gave them up to the person who did want them and they know there are waivers and agreements and in the case of egg donors there are often direct contracts with explicit terms about reimbursement expenses. So its so insulting to sit there and try to snow people into buying that all an egg donor does is give up an egg when she signs documents agreeing to give up her child. There are people who will grow up and know that those agreements were drafted in order to take them from their family and ensure that their family did not know about them or contact them. You look at this from the egg donors view and from the view of the person buying the pregnancy experience and buying parental rights to a child. Sure to them donating an egg is nothing like having a baby. But being alive is just like being alive. The experience of the born individual is not defined by the pregnancy experience of whoever delivered them. They are born and they have bio parents separate from the people that raised them. Was that handled in a way that protected them from being sold? Did those people pay someone for the right to call themselves parents. Absolutely they did.

              Its buying people.

      • You know, the first time I was a donor I was earning about £13k a year and paying off student loans as well. Do you seriously begrudge me receiving my day’s holiday back? Really? It might have come to about £80 – not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but quite a lot of money to me at the time.

        While women in the US are being paid sums way above their actual expenses, it seems pretty petty to complain about that.

  7. Julie said in response to my comment: “I don’t mean to come across as a hopeless capitalist, but I feel torn about this. On the one hand, you are clearly right. Differential pricing in adoption or gamete supply (not formally pricing for the child, of course, but can we ignore the reality?) is appalling. It’s just as you say. … But it’s also true that people often want children who will have similar racial or ethnic identities as they do. Which means they have to locate an egg donor or sperm donor or a child available for adoption who has that identity. That can be very difficult. … So I see what you’re saying and in some way I agree, but i also wonder whether once we put money in play we can hold the line.” (cut words out)

    Julie, yes, we can draw that imaginary line in the sand. Egg “donation” falls under the medical category best described as “Practice for the Benefit of Others”. What falls under that category, or is included, is blood transfusions, vaccinations, bone-marrow transplantations, etc., that have been scrutinized, investigated, debated, studied, and peer reviewed, before consensus gained as beneficial and rules created to mitigate the nominal risks to the donor. We draw the line in the sand with live organ donation – an example – we cannot advertise for, and purchase a kidney from a stranger, even though that stranger may well expect to live a normal lifespan after the donation, but there are substantial immediate and future risks, that a substantial monetary benefit may sway the “donor” to accept, regardless of the consequences. I think the latter is probably the clearest explanation, or correlation, as there is a potential for both immediate and long-term physcial (if not psychological) risks in egg donation. By upping the price over and above realistic expenses and accomodation for the discomfort – whether it is based on IQ’s, Looks, Accomplishments, Race, or combination thereof, we also increase the likelihood of acceptance of the offer by the “donor” without true informed consent, because just like in the case of a paid stranger kidney “donor”, the substantial monetary benefit becomes the deciding factor of assuming the risk.

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