Tag Archives: commodification

The Price of Eggs

Here I am again.  Been traveling and what-not, but back now.  And just in time.

There’s an article in today’s Wall Street Journal–front page–about the price of eggs.   (Because the Journal is subscription only, I cannot effectively link to it.   Sorry.  You may be able to get it through your favorite library, perhaps?)   Anyway, I’m especially sorry not to be able to post it because I am actually (briefly) quoted in it.  But that’s not really why it is noteworthy.

This actually dovetails reasonably well with the consideration of egg freezing that was underway just before I went traveling.  (And on that subject, see this recent Time Magazine article.)

Part of the hook for the WSJ article is the anti-trust suit that began five years ago.   The idea here is that there is a suggested cap for what is paid to women providing eggs.   Continue reading

Money Troubles

There is a long story in today’s NYT which, while somewhat off-topic, illustrates the problematic role of money in a lot of the ART stuff I discuss here.  It’s about the commodification of breast milk.    While the story bears reading, the critical point to understand is that there is an emerging industry–and I do mean industry–built around processing breast milk.    One person calls it “white plasma”–which for me seems to echo the designation of oil as “black gold.”

There are doubtless many reasons why the industrialization of breast milk is disturbing even as its potential to save or enhance the lives of premature infants is clearly beneficial.   I just want to focus on one thing, though, and it has to do with money.

Human breast milk can only be obtained from one source–women.  The question raised in the article–and the one I want to think about here– is whether women should be paid to produce breast milk.   It’s easy for me to see the two sides.  Continue reading

NYT Surrogacy Article

I’m sure many of you saw and read this story that was in the NYT a couple of days ago.   The headline (“Coming to US for a Baby, and Womb to Carry It”) doesn’t really do it justice.   While it is, in fact, a story about the US as a destination for what is sometimes called reproductive tourism, it isn’t only that.   It’s full of interesting little points about surrogacy and many of the hard questions surrogacy raises.   From  my point of view, this makes it hard to know where to begin.   So I guess I’ll just dive in……

The article does a nice job of at least touching on some of the issues that can arise with surrogacy.   So, for example, the question of compensation is raised.  Do you pay a surrogate?  How much and for what?   Perhaps it isn’t clear that even within the US there’s enormous variation on the approach to compensation–from making compensation illegal to facilitating it.

Does the exchange of money mean that surrogacy exploits women? Continue reading

The Russian Adoption Saga Grinds On

First, I owe you all an apology.  My presence here has been spotty at best.  I will tend to this short post and then take a stab at comments for a while.  I think I have time right now.

And now for the news, which is not really news so much as more of the same.   The Russian adoption ban has become law.  (I’ve written about this before and the result here is not surprising.)     As the article notes, the most immediate effect of the bill is to prevent 52 children who were in the adoption process from completing the process–or maybe I should say fifty-nine families from completing the process.   The difficulty this creates for those families is clear.

Part of the problem is there are so many children in Russia languishing in orphanages or other state institutions–perhaps as many as 120,000.        Continue reading

The Politics of Russian Adoptions–A Different Kind Of Commodification?

Not long ago the US Congress enacted a law spurred by Russia’s recent human rights record.   This law restricts the travel of Russian officials accused of human rights abuses.   Unsurprisingly, its enactment did not make the Russian government terribly happy.    Now before you think I’ve completely lost the focus of this blog, what I want to focus on is not the US law but rather the Russian response.  You can read about it here, but the bottom line is that the Russians have threatened to retaliate by banning US citizens from adopting children from Russia.  (A more recent news story says that the law has been enacted.)

Now there have been some appalling cases involving Russian children adopted by US families. Continue reading

Adoption in the Age of The Internet

This story was on public radio yesterday AM.   The story was spurred by this report from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.   It’s about how modern technology is transforming adoption practice.   And it is not in a particularly good way.

I know that there has been some criticism of adoption agencies here recently, particularly in the context of the recent Utah adoption case.   Much of that is doubtless warranted, particularly in the Achane case.

But while there are undoubtedly some bad or unethical adoption agencies, there are also many that are quite careful thoughtful.    Continue reading

Some Further Thoughts on The Sale of Pre-Made Embryos

Just before Thanksgiving I put up a post about a fertility clinic in CA that is offering pre-made embryos for sale.  (This is rather a coarse way of putting it, perhaps, but it makes the point.)   There’s a lot to think about here and there have been a number of thoughtful comments.  I wanted to return to the topic and offer a few further thoughts to continue the conversation.

First, for those who think that selling eggs and sperm is wrong, this too is obviously wrong.   I think it is fair to say that for those people it is wrong for the same reasons selling sperm and eggs would be wrong–and there are a whole array of reasons.  While I think there is an important conversation here–about the propriety of selling sperm/eggs–it is one that has already received extensive attention here.

This why I want to focus on why those who are comfortable with a market for eggs/sperm might nevertheless draw the line at the market for pre-made embryos.  Continue reading

Custom Made or Off The Rack?

First off a Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.  It’s been a long fall from my point of view and I’ve been less then satisfied with my ability to get posts up here.  Things might improve a little with the end of the semester but of course, only time will really tell.   In the meantime, I appreciate all of your patience and your participation.

Now, this story from the LA Times caught my eye.   It’s about a new frontier in ART marketing.

Generally if someone is going to do IVF they provide the sperm and eggs which are then combined in a lab to create pre-embryos.   If people are not using their own gametes they generally obtain sperm and/or eggs from banks or clinics.   There’s been lots of discussion here about that process of shopping for gametes and it’s good to keep that in mind.   Continue reading

Sorry Circumstances and Surrogacy

I have been thinking about this story from yesterday’s NYT.  (I think it was yesterday as it marked “Sunday Review” but the date on it is November 3.   In any event, I only saw the on-line version.)   I found it both sad and disturbing and I assume my reaction was not unlike that of many other people.

The essay, by Susan Straight, portrays the life of C, a neighbor of Straight’s.   C is something like a professional surrogate.   She’s been pregnant for other couples three times.   She has been paid a total of $115,000.   While that is doubtless a lot of money, the day to day circumstances of her last pregnancy weren’t pretty and nothing in this story would make you want to rush out and be a surrogate.  Indeed, I think it is hard to finish the essay without a feeling that something is wrong with this picture.

And what is it that is wrong?  Continue reading

Free IVF Offered as A Prize

Yesterday’s NYT has a story about fertility services being offered as prizes in variously structured contests.   I’ve written about this idea a couple of times in the past couple of years–once a couple of years ago when a UK clinic offered a IVF as a door prize and more recently when there was a Facebook contest with free IVF as the reward.

Yesterday’s story suggests that these were just early instances of what is becoming a more widespread phenomenon.    All manner of prize-oriented promotions are cropping up–video essay contests, raffles, lotteries, race sponsorships and so on.   It makes perfect sense, really.  As Douglas Quenqua, who wrote the NYT piece, notes:

The people who stage the raffles say that both sides benefit: one woman gets free treatment, and the sponsor gets publicity. Continue reading