Bioethics Blogs

Will California Expand the Market for Women

Currently, California – like many countries – allows women who provide eggs for research to be reimbursed for travel, lost wages, child care, and other expenses connected to the egg retrieval process, but not to be paid beyond that.

A bill sponsored by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the fertility industry organization, would overturn that policy, and allow researchers to pay thousands of dollars beyond reimbursement for women’s eggs.

Despite opposition from women’s health and public interest organizations, including the Center for Genetics and Society, AB 2531 sailed through the state’s Assembly Health Committee on April 5 with a 17-0 vote. It now goes to the Assembly floor, and after than to the state Senate.

What’s wrong with expanding the market for women’s eggs? After all, women are allowed to sell their eggs for other people’s fertility treatments. Here are key reasons it’s important to hold the line:

  • The health risks of egg harvesting are significant, but they’re woefully under-studied. A well-known and fairly common short-term problem is ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome (OHSS), but no one is sure how many women get the serious – sometimes life-threatening – version of it. Data on long-term outcomes, including follow-up studies on reports of cancers and infertility in egg providers, are notoriously inadequate.
  • It is impossible for women to give truly informed consent if adequate health and safety information can’t be provided.
  • Offering large sums of money encourages women in need to gamble with their health. It’s what bioethicists call “undue inducement.”
  • Women who provide eggs are not research subjects, despite the inaccuracy in AB 2531.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.