Questioning the Commerce of Conception

Posted by Marcy Darnovsky on August 6th, 2008

Late last month, Biopolitical Times contributor Pete Shanks noted several supporters of assisted reproduction who took the occasion of IVF's 30th anniversary to assert that the industry urgently needs some rules. Since then, a number of additional liberal voices have raised questions about what Barnard president Debora Spar calls "the commerce of conception."

  • In an article about the marketing of egg freezing, the National Women's Health Network's Kiesha McCurtis argues that the practice is "far from ready for mainstream use by otherwise healthy women." McCurtis lists the risks of egg extraction, observes that it offers "large profit margins for egg banks and specialized fertility clinics," and concludes that "[a]dvocates of egg freezing use alarming statistics in a misleading fashion to encourage women to create unnecessary back-up plans based on an ineffective, expensive, and unproven technology."

[Nota bene: The National Women's Health Network is one of the few women's health organizations that does not accept financial support from pharmaceutical companies, tobacco companies or medical device manufacturers.]

  • A blog post on RH Reality Check by Jennifer Rogers begins with her appreciation that because of IVF technology, "the clock is not ticking as loudly for me as it was for my mother." She then enumerates several examples of what she calls "a whole new set of concerns" captured by her question, "What are the ethical, moral, legal and financial impacts of this field?"

  • Over at Huffington Post, Melissa Lafsky reacts to the glibness on display when the libertarian magazine Reason convened a panel of women to talk about selling their eggs in a Manhattan bar. From Lafsky's piece, titled "Selling Your Eggs: No Big Deal?"

"The room went silent when one woman admitted the gynecologist performing the surgery had told her, 'Whatever they're paying you, it's not enough," because the risks were so high…More than one listener flinched as the speakers described having needles stuck through their vaginas into their uteruses, to aspirate their eggs and package them off to conceive a child that the women had (possibly illegally) contracted away their right to ever see or contact. All for somewhere between $10,000 to $30,000. But the panelists? They just smiled and cracked another joke."

Previously on Biopolitical Times:

Posted in Assisted Reproduction, Egg Retrieval, Marcy Darnovsky's Blog Posts, Reproductive Justice, Health & Rights, US Federal


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