Friday, July 19, 2013

Paying for Human Eggs, Ivan Illich and Jerry Brown

California's pay-for-eggs bill is stalled in a technical parliamentary process as opponents continue to wage their campaign urging Gov. Jerry Brown to veto the proposal, which swept easily through the legislature.

The latest volley against the industry-sponsored measure appeared this week as an op-ed in The Sacramento Bee. The legislation would allow women to be paid for eggs for scientific research. The op-ed piece invoked the philosopher Ivan Illich, a longtime friend of Jerry Brown and much respected by him.

The July 16 article was written by Diane Tober of the Center for Genetics and Society of Berkeley and Nancy Scheper-Hughes, a professor of medical anthropology at UC Berkeley and director of Organs Watch, a medical human rights documentation project.The piece said, 
“The late historian of science and technology, Ivan Illich, warned against the processes of medical industries which 'create new needs and control their satisfaction and turn human beings and their creativity into objects.'"
The op-ed said,
“Women's research eggs (have) become the hot new bio-product, increasing the profits of the multibillion-dollar-per-year infertility industry at the expense of women's health, safety and possibly, their future fertility. Is this the 'equity' we want for ourselves, our sisters and our daughters?”
In 2003, Brown wrote a remembrance of Illich, whom he first met in 1976. Brown said that Illich
“...bore witness to the destructive power of modern institutions that 'create needs faster than they can create satisfaction, and in the process of trying to meet the needs they generate, they consume the earth.'”
The egg compensation bill (AB926 by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord) would remove a ban in California on paying women who provide their eggs for scientific research. Currently women who provide eggs for fertility purposes can be paid, sometimes as much as $50,000, depending on the characteristics of the woman providing the eggs. The bill would not alter the ban on using research funds from the California stem cell agency to pay for eggs. However, the agency next week will consider a proposal to allow use of agency funds to purchase stem cell lines derived from eggs through compensation. (For more information on the bill, see here, here and here.)

The egg bill received final legislative approval on July 1. The governor has 12 days to act on the measure once it actually reaches his desk. However, as of this morning, the legislation remained in what is known as the “engrossing and enrolling” process. It could be a routine delay but the process can also be used to manage the flow of legislation to the governor. Brown is currently on a two-week trip to Germany and Ireland and is not expected to return until near the first of August.

(An earlier version of this item incorrectly identified Nancy Scheper-Hughes as with the Center for Genetics and Society.)

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