A woman’s choice - vetoed

August 15th, 2013

A California bill that would allow the sale of human eggs for research was vetoed this week by Governor Jerry Brown. It not only strips women of the right to make an educated decision about her body, but the medical community of the valuable opportunity to further stem cell and infertility research.

For people like us in the infertility community, it's a double blow. Not only does it diminish our belief that women should have the right to make an informed decision about her body, but it prevents us from furthering necessary research in an area of medicine that is growing at an exponential rate.

Just last month we discussed a study that showed the majority of egg donors are motivated by altruistic reasons. Compensation doesn't seem to change the reason women are choosing to go through the lengthy medical process related to egg retrieval, but we believe that it's something they have earned. Considering men can receive compensation for donating their sperm to medical research through a much shorter, totally non-invasive process, it speaks more to the continued disrespect of women and their ability to make a decision about their bodies.

Patricia Bellasalma, California president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), accuses the governor of "believing that women are incapable of giving informed consent, incapable of contracting when money is involved. It's a shame Jerry Brown doesn't trust women."

NOW is not alone in their support of the bill. Other women's groups like Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, as well as The American Society of Reproductive Medicine, backed the exciting opportunity for more research.

Still others felt it was simply baiting low-income women. Jennifer Lahl, president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, said "People in need of money will take risks. Wealthy can buy; poor have to sell."

This characterization of women is frustrating and disrespectful. Mark Sauer, MD, chief of reproductive endocrinology at Columbia Univeristy Medical Center, put it this way: "It sadly demonstrates the lack of understanding such individuals possess about how egg donation is performed in this country. They do undergo a lot of risk but it's an acceptable risk. This is a 35-year-old medical procedure, and the safety track record is well-defined."

To argue that this is a matter of safety is far too simplistic. A woman can do her research and see the potential risks for herself - allowing her to make the choice. We have to give women more credit and trust them to make their own educated decisions.