You've probably seen them-most of us have. Ads soliciting women to donate their eggs for in vitro fertilization are everywhere: in newspapers, on the Internet, on college campus bulletin boards.
Most people don't even think twice about it. An opportunity for young women to earn a little cash and do something nice for an infertile couple, and it's all supervised by doctors. What could be wrong with that?
Plenty, according to a new documentary. Eggsploitation, a film produced by the Center for Bioethics and Culture, tears down the façade to show the dark side of egg donation.
The makers of Eggsploitation openly acknowledge that much of their evidence is anecdotal-because it had to be. One of their main points, in fact, is that it's deeply disturbing how little data has been collected about what's become a multi-billion-dollar industry. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2007 "in the United States alone, over 17,000 reproductive technology cycles were performed using donated eggs." And yet, in this massive business, no records are kept and no standard follow-up care is provided for the young women undergoing this procedure.
And the procedure itself is far more problematic than those upbeat ads would ever lead you to believe. The women involved are given hormones to force their bodies to produce far more eggs than they normally would-and that, as you might expect, leads to consequences.
The young women interviewed in this film talk about suffering from strokes, brain damage, internal bleeding, or infertility after the procedure. Some ended up with cancer, even those who had no family history of the disease. Others nearly died from complications of the surgery done to retrieve the eggs.
But the problems go beyond that. The women involved in egg donation are being exploited, essentially being turned into human commodities. "A woman has become a walking ovary" is how one researcher puts it in the film. The ideal woman for the job, a so-called "elite donor," is one with a high I.Q., a sense of altruism, and a need for cash-hence the plethora of ads on college campuses. For all intents and purposes, these women are used and then thrown away.
They are providing genetic material for their own biological children, whom they may never have a chance to know. If they express any concerns or reservations, according to the young women interviewed in the film, they are pressured and even guilt-tripped into continuing.
And it's only going to get worse because of the mania for embryonic stem cell research. It's rarely mentioned by the media that all the eggs that help make those embryos have to come from somewhere-that is, from these young women who are not being advised of the risks to their own health.
"I urge every young woman I know not to do this," says one young donor in the film who has good reason to regret what she did. We need to listen to her and other young women like her, instead of treating them like disposable objects in the fertility racket. Go to BreakPoint.org to find out more about how you can see this important film--and share it with every young woman you know.