Gametes R Us

Posted by Marcy Darnovsky July 19, 2007
Biopolitical Times
In a New York Times Magazinepiece last Sunday titled "Your Gamete, Myself," Peggy Orenstein writes at some length about the joys and angst of women who conceive and bear children using other women's eggs. She discusses their frustrations about infertility, their desires for a pregnancy and a child, and the hesitations and qualms they must overcome.

Then there are the difficult decisions that confront them: Which egg "donor" to choose - the one who likes Princess Bride or the one who prefers Pulp Fiction? The brunette or the blonde?

And what to reveal to friends and family? After the birth, what to tell the child or children?

I certainly hope that Orenstein or a similarly gifted reporter will soon give the same sort of close attention to the women who are providing these eggs.

What is it like to undergo the grueling egg retrieval process in exchange for a check? How do young women decide that this is a good way to earn $4000 or $5000 or $15000? How thoroughly are they being informed of the risks they are taking - including, as Orenstein briefly mentions, the possibility of adverse reactions requiring hospitalization and a small chance of death? Are they being told just how inadequate are the existing data about short-term and long-term risks? Who is recruiting them and profiting from the exchange? Why have countries including Canada, France, and the UK decided that payments like those now routine in the U.S. are not in the best interests of women?

Orenstein's article concludes with the happiness of an egg recipient mother-to-be, looking forward to building her family "regardless of whose genes are involved." Until we consider the women who are providing the eggs that carry those genes, that rosy wrap-up seems premature.