Thursday, August 31, 2006

"Pay the Ladies, Please," Say Two From Academe

Legislation to protect egg donors and regulate embryonic stem cell research in California – outside of CIRM-funded efforts -- is now on the state Senate floor where it appears certain to be approved and go to the governor's desk.

However, the measure (SB1260) by Sen. Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento, has drawn fire from two UCLA law professors who argue that it "threatens the future of stem cell research" in California because it would bar payment for eggs.

Russell Korobkin and Judith Daar criticized the bill as "shortsighted" in an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times.

Here are some excerpts:
"The primary justification offered for banning compensation to egg donors is that financial incentives will unduly induce women, particularly those of lower socioeconomic status, to undergo egg extraction without fully considering the significant risks and inconveniences associated with the weeks-long process, which requires hormone injections and minor surgery. Money, it is argued, will enable overzealous scientists to coerce women to become egg providers.

"This argument relies on an unusual and indefensible view of what constitutes coercion. In a free-market economy, financial inducements are ubiquitous, especially when socially valuable activities entail some degree of risk or inconvenience. Coal mining is dirty and dangerous work, but we don't claim that paying miners is coercive and expect altruists to do the job for free. Certainly there is no movement afoot to ban payments to soldiers or peace officers in the name of protecting them against placing themselves in harm's way for profit. In fact, just the opposite. We sometimes provide extra hazard pay to public servants who take on the greatest risks in recognition of their valuable contributions.

"If anything, ethics requires the affirmative compensation of individuals who sacrifice so that the rest of us can reap the benefits of biomedical research. Medical research subjects commonly are paid a fee for their participation. There is no justification for ushering women of reproductive age into a separate and wholly unequal category — ineligible for compensation solely because of the nature of their research participation."
Whatever the strength of their argument, it comes much too late to have an impact on the measure. It is also not likely to be cited during debate on the Senate floor. Paying egg donors is not a political third rail, but few, if any legislators are likely to support such a move.

Here is a link to the analysis of SB1260 prepared for use in the Senate floor debate on the bill.

1 comment:

  1. we're not talking about coal miners here -- we're talking about women, who clearly can't decide for themselves whether to take health risks for money.

    (end sarcasm.)

    i can see the arguments on both sides, but i agree with the scientists that the argument that got this bill passed is pretty insulting to women.


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