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Fertility Industry: Money, Not Science

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Wanting a baby and not being able to have one is one of the worst feelings is the world; I know firsthand. It puts a person in a vulnerable and sometimes desperate state of mind, not to mention the bundle of emotions one must deal with. The fertility industry knows this, and preys on it.

Jennifer Lahl also knows this; she is the founder and president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture. She wants to call out the fertility industry on their “dirty little secrets.” First, Lahl says that the fertility industry does not do long-term follow-up studies on the health of egg donors. These are women whose egg production has been chemically stimulated, and they are then paid for the harvesting of their eggs. It’s popular among college students, military wives and other cash-strapped women.

The lack of long-term studies means we have no idea how this procedure affects women. It’s as if they simply disappear after they’ve donated their eggs.

Next, “there are no major peer-reviewed studies on the long-term effects of super-ovulation on the otherwise healthy population of egg donors.” Without these studies, Lahl and others question whether a woman can give fully-informed consent. She consents to a list of unknowns, because the industry refuses to study these effects.

Another issue is that of money. When money is offered, decisions can become muddied. We do not offer money to grieving families for the organs of their deceased loved ones. Why do we offer money for eggs? One woman told Lahl of her own medical school experience:

We are taught in medical school that any time you have financial compensation it creates inequities in care and in the decisions that people make, so if someone is more in need of money, they are more willing to take risks and to ignore the risks and side effects.

Finally, the children conceived via anonymous egg donation are denied any information about their biological parents.

Lahl is concerned about the emerging link between the drugs used for egg donation and a specific type of brain tumor called gliomas. Unfortunately, there is far too little known at this point to make a scientific connection between the two.

The fertility industry has absolutely no interest in doing the studies and the research that are needed to protect women. Those desperate to have a baby have no way to know what harms may be caused when they ask a young woman to “help” them. Women who seek out research on their own before making the decision to donate their eggs come up with nothing, so they believe it is a safe procedure.

When will the necessary research be done so that we can finally know the risks of egg donation—and more importantly, so young women will know too?

Clearly, this is an industry that is not interested in science and full disclosure. That puts young women’s lives at risk, and that is unacceptable.

Read “What We Don’t Know Just Might Kill You” at Public Discourse.

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Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.

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