Israeli feminists respond to Romanian egg scandal

Posted by Marcy Darnovsky on August 20th, 2009

Last month, authorities in Romania detained 30 people and arrested a number of Israeli physicians at the Sabyc fertility clinic in Bucharest in connection with illegal payments to women for their eggs. Israeli newspapers reported (1, 2) that the eggs were provided by university students and Roma women, some of them as young as 15.

Romanian prosecutors confiscated documents, computers and over 130,000 euros (US$185,000) in cash from the clinic, whose mostly Israeli and German clientele reportedly paid 10,000 to 15,000 euros (US$14,000 to $21,000) for fertility treatment. A statement by the country's organized crime department said that the women who provided eggs were paid the equivalent of $270 to $335.

Two of the physicians were a father and son who owned the clinic and who also have Romanian citizenship; an assistant was also arrested. The three have been charged with "association with an organized crime group and misconduct at a fertility clinic the doctors owned, [and] were brought into court in handcuffs," according to the Romanian Times. Two other Israeli doctors who worked at the Sabyc clinic have not been charged, but are being detained in Romania.

The case has received almost no coverage in the U.S. But dozens of news organizations in Israel, Romania, the rest of Europe and elsewhere have covered the story as a "human egg-trafficking ring."

An Israeli feminist organization, Isha L'Isha (Woman to Woman), issued a statement [PDF] on the "Romanian egg affair" that said, in part:

As a society, we should not allow the use of medical knowledge and technology, developed for helping and healing the ill, in a manner that endangers the health of women, not for the cause of saving lives, but for research or for trying to reach parenthood at any price. We oppose the efforts aiming at fulfilling fertility through exploiting the distress of other women, only because of the fact that there are those who can afford it and those who need the money. Sadly, we live in a reality full of various forms of modern slavery including trafficking in women, organ trade, exploiting immigrants, etc. As a society, we have to oppose all such phenomena in every possible way.
Isha L'Isha has been working against what it calls the "egg-cells trade" since 2007, focusing on a bill that has been stalled in the Israeli parliament. Although some reforms have been added to the bill, the organization says that the "optimal solution" would include
international collaboration, a higher level of severe punishment, finding non-exploiting economic solutions for those who turn to egg-cells trade following financial difficulties and raising public awareness of this phenomenon and of the efforts made to deal with it.

Posted in Egg Retrieval, Marcy Darnovsky's Blog Posts, Other Countries, Reproductive Justice, Health & Rights


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