Canada is Free and Freedom is Its Nationality

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Friday, August 14, 2009

Outsourced, Your Reproduction

"Baby manufacture is already big business. Recent ads targeting women college students in America have offered them free holidays in India in exchange for parting with their eggs during their visit, with Indian women teamed to become paid surrogates and return the product – the student’s child – to those who commissioned it." (Almond, Mercatornet)

Cash-strapped college students will do almost anything for some extra money, and egg donation seems to be one way to make several thousand, if not tens of thousands of dollars quickly. Not only do young women get much needed tuition money in a recessionary economy, but they also get the satisfaction of knowing that their “Good Samaritan” act may bring joy to the heart of an infertile couple who finally has a baby to love.

Amidst the euphoria however, some people are advocating sober second thoughts.

Over four years ago the European Parliament banned for-profit egg donations. Why? Their decision pointed out that

“Whereas the harvesting of egg cells poses a high medical risk to the life and health of women, resulting inter alia from hyper stimulation of the ovaries,…

whereas the promise of financial incentives could cause a woman, especially one who is in a state of economic need, to consider the sale of her ova, possibly resulting in serious risks to her own life and health, as well as to the recipient, as the donor might not disclose a medical history or medical risks that would make donation inadvisable;…

Recalls that the human body should not be a source of financial gain and that particular attention should be paid to vulnerable individuals at risk of becoming victims of trafficking, particularly women;

Condemns all trafficking in the human body and its parts, and stresses that Article 12(1) of Directive 2004/23/EC requires Member States to endeavor to ensure voluntary and unpaid donations of tissues and cells;”

Michele Clark and Jennifer Lahl expand on the dangers of paid egg donation, “Vulnerable young women, trusting the medical establishment with their well-being, are being heavily recruited by means of deceptive advertisements and coerced with large sums of money in relation to their social-economic status….. Whatever their nationality or class, they are not told the truth about the health risks of egg donation. Medical science does not know the full implications of egg harvesting because there is inadequate tracking, monitoring, and meaningful short- or long-term follow-up of these young women. Prospective donors are told simply that there are "no known risks.""

While donors may or may not be informed of all the risks, the reproductive health-care system is definitely home to many less than ethical clinics and practices, as the recent arrest of doctors in Romania and the Suleman octuplet case in America have vividly exposed. There is good cause to fear that in the rapid advance of reproductive technology, proper research into long-term effects many be subordinated to monetary gain.

These same considerations and more also come into play when considering the issue of surrogate mothers, especially when you have a situation where severely impoverished women are being paid to provide a baby for comparatively wealthy foreigners. While some are quick to point out that the money is a great benefit to the surrogates and can represent a significant boost in lifestyle and a chance to fulfill dreams, the argument begins to sour when you remember all the other things, from prostitution to slavery, which has been justified with a variation of this same line.

Now in New York women are being paid to donate their eggs for cloning and research. Gone are the images of bright (blue) eyed babies and in their place come images of curing deadly diseases with these eggs. In a world where some people are still worried about over-population, even better.

Yet under the facade of attractive photos and extravagant promises we would do well to remember that there is another side to the coin. Should we consider this as an “only slightly macabre version of adoption” as Glenn McGee of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Bioethics put it? Or should we consider this a slightly cleaner version of reproductive prostitution?

Are we in danger of heading toward the scenario in The Island (one of the most profound movies ever made, in between the the car crashes)? There women had clones give birth for them, and then the clone mothers were killed. It was all out of sight, all very sanitary, all under the guise that the clones weren't really living people. We may not be there yet, unless you are an embryo, but we are walking tranquilly down that road with very little compunction or second thought.

We have divorced sex from reproduction, and reproduction from sex. C.S. Lewis wrote some time ago. "There dwell an accursed people, full of pride and lust. There when a young man takes a maiden in marriage, they do not lie together, but each lies with a cunningly fashioned image of the other, made to move and to be warm by devilish arts, for real flesh will not please them, they are so dainty (delicati) in their dreams of lust. Their real children they fabricate by vile arts in a secret place." That Hideous Strength, 1946 In an exaggerated form, this is worryingly reminiscent of our obsession with things like pornography and reproductive tinkering.

The question will not go away but one thing is definitely certain, as long as the checks still cash young women will still be willing to sell their body parts for money. Should we let them? Or are we perhaps doing more damage than we realize, not only to them, but to us? And not only to us but to our children, and to the world they will live in as a result of our ethical decisions?

1 comment:

  1. EXCELLENT post! Something we all need to think seriously about.