Treating infertility has become big business, and biotech companies have made an industry out of recruiting young women to donate their eggs. Advertisements frequently appear online, in campus newspapers or the local classifieds. Women are promised big bucks — up to $100,000 — in exchange for this “commodity.” What isn’t well-known, however, are the physical consequences for donors. A shortage of eggs has placed vulnerable women in the path of the stampede to fill the demand.
A new film called Eggsploitation is blowing the whistle on this industry. Produced by the Center for Bioethics and Culture, the expose recently won Best Documentary in the California Film Festival. It’s a well-deserved honor.
The film interviews women who’ve donated eggs and experienced devastating medical problems. While physicians apply a delicate balance of treatments to the infertile woman, egg donors are subjected to aggressive hormone surges in an effort to harvest multiple eggs. These women risk the loss of ovaries, stroke and even brain damage. Their testimonies show devastating impacts on their lives.
But because this marketing of body parts is largely unregulated, there is little to no recourse for women facing health complications. And since agencies are not required to maintain records as in traditional adoptions, children born from these eggs are typically unable to locate biological mothers or receive information relevant to genetic health. Those are small matters to an industry intent on big financial gain. To them, eggs are merchandise, and women the machines creating them.
With deceptive advertising and screening that targets particular ages, races, genetic backgrounds, IQs, and other desirable characteristics, there is great cause for concern. More alarming is what happens after these donated eggs are fertilized. While some embryos are given the chance for life, many are frozen and forgotten, used for research or simply discarded.
It’s my hope Eggsploitation will be a catalyst to educate both women considering donating their eggs and the adoptive parents of these newly-formed tiny lives.