Which comes first? Equality or the egg?
Under the guise of "gender parity," promoters of California's AB 926 — passed last week by the state legislature and now on the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown — propose paying women for eggs donated for research purposes.
Men who provide sperm for either fertility or research get paid. And women who provide eggs for reproductive purposes can make an extraordinary amount of money.
Paying women for their eggs for research purposes seems a logical and even gregarious concept. Who would be opposed?
To answer that, let's consider the fate of these eggs. Unlike eggs provided for reproductive purposes (given so an infertile couple can have a baby), these eggs all have one fate. A human will be created, some form of scientific research will be conducted upon it, and that tiny human will be destroyed.
Gathering the eggs from women is an invasive and risky procedure. The compensation for these "research" eggs will not be the same as it is for "reproductive" eggs — researchers do not care whether the mother is a Rhodes Scholar or a high school dropout. What we have is a situation enticing lower income women to undergo a risky procedure extracting their eggs, which will then be used to create children, all of whom will be destroyed.
We have a moment, with AB 926, to inject the public and political discourse with rational conversation on the reality of the laboratory creation and destruction of human embryos.
The California Catholic Conference reports, “Because there have been no long-term studies on the aftermath of egg donation, the potential donor can’t even give a proper informed consent. But more importantly, informed consent becomes meaningless when someone is being paid — as people, especially poor women, will take risks if they really need money.”
It is interesting that the discussion surrounding AB 926 mentions nothing of these facts. Couched in such language as "research protocol sensitivity to potential competition for a limited supply of donors "(1), the conversation already assumes complicity by the general public in the business of buying and selling the means of human procreation.
The very fact that gametes are for sale ought to be bewildering. Other body parts, with the exception of blood and hair, are not legally sellable thanks to the National Organ Transplantation Act. This ruling is based on the prohibition against selling human beings. Selling human tissue is seen as immoral (or at least tasteless) because there is something inherently dignified about a person and his or her parts.
Even more startling, then, is the fact that, as a society, we are perfectly fine selling the one part of each of us that is capable of making a brand new, entirely unique human being. Sperm and egg are not just cells. They are cells with the capacity to create a human person with a divine destiny. And, whether used for research or reproduction, these gametes create tiny human beings in laboratories, every day, all around the world. Some are allowed to develop and be born. Most are destroyed. Tiny humans with eternal souls.
We have a moment, with AB 926, to inject the public and political discourse with rational conversation on the reality of the laboratory creation and destruction of human embryos. We will not now stop this process completely, but we can stop its progression and keep additional women from being damaged. AB 926 passed both the Assembly (in May, 54-20, 5 abstentions) and the Senate (in July, 24-9, 5 abstentions) and was sent to Gov. Brown’s desk on Aug. 1. Please take a few moments to send a note to Gov. Brown through www.LAFaithfulCitizen.org. Share with others your knowledge about the value of all human life. Use the language of reality instead of the sanitized euphemisms we have all grown accustomed to.
This bill is about equality — the equality of all human beings to be treated with dignity and reverence because of who they are, members of the human population, no matter how small.
Kathleen Buckley Domingo is life coordinator in the Office of Life, Justice and Peace for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
(1) “Leveling the field for human egg donors,” Naomi Cahn and June Carbone, L.A. Times, July 13, 2013.