Monday, April 18, 2016

Pay-for-Eggs Legislation Up Again in California: Fertility Industry Trying to Repeal Ban on Compensation for Human Eggs in Research

The industry that deals in human eggs is once again pushing forward with California legislation to allow it to pay women thousands of dollars to harvest their eggs for research purposes.

The measure (AB2531) by Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, D-Inglewood, is now on the Assembly floor after clearing the Assembly Health Committee on a 17-0 vote. (See the March 31 legislative analysis of the measure here.)

The bill is essentially the same as the one vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2013. It is not clear whether the current author of the measure has been successful in removing Brown’s opposition.

The legislation is sponsored by American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the dominant trade group in the largely unregulated fertility industry.

When she introduced her bill in February, Burke said in a press release,
Autumn Burke on Assembly floor
Sacramento Bee photo
"It's perfectly legal for a woman to get paid when advertising through Craigslist to provide eggs for infertile couples, but she can't get paid for a donation in medical research. It's insulting to women, and it keeps California's research institutions in the dark ages. Instead of leading the way on women's health, we're stuck behind 47 other states all because of a misguided ban that assumes women shouldn't be allowed to make their own decisions."
Burke and the industry organization have an array of groups backing the legislation, ranging from California's district nine of  the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to California Cryobank.

The bill is opposed by the Center for Genetics and Society in Berkeley along with groups ranging from the Catholic church to "We Are Egg Donors."

Marcy Darnovsky, NBC photo
Earlier this month, Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society, wrote:
"The health risks of egg harvesting are significant, but they’re woefully under-studied. A well-known and fairly common short-term problem is ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome (OHSS), but no one is sure how many women get the serious – sometimes life-threatening – version of it. Data on long-term outcomes, including follow-up studies on reports of cancers and infertility in egg providers, are notoriously inadequate.
"It is impossible for women to give truly informed consent if adequate health and safety information can’t be provided.
"Offering large sums of money encourages women in need to gamble with their health. It’s what bioethicists call 'undue inducement.'"
California's $3 billion stem cell agency bans compensation for women who provide eggs for research that the agency finances but it does allow reimbursement of expenses. The legislation would repeal a state law banning compensation.

(Editor's note: The original version of this story said that Brown vetoed an egg compensation bill last year instead of 2013.)

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