Does egg donation exploit women and put their health in danger? That's what a new documentary film, Eggsploitation, claims.
I just watched a trailer, and it has left me feeling a little queasy. The melodramatic horror-movie music may have had something to do with my reaction, or it may have been the grainy images of hypodermic needles poking through skin or into some cells I can't totally identify (an ovary? an egg?), but it's also probably more than that.
The movie, subtitled ominously "The Infertility Industry Has a Dirty Little Secret," is now being screened around the country and is stirring up debate.
The film was made by a pro-life group called the Center for Bioethics and Culture, which (judging by a quick look at its website) has taken stands on hot-button issues including assisted suicide, stem-cell research, fetal genetic testing, IVF, and surrogacy. The CBC apparently thinks none of those procedures adequately respects life.
Egg donation, the group says in the documentary, uses women by preying on donors who need cash (they are paid for their eggs) and endangering these women's own reproductive health without alerting them of the risks.
Look, I don't claim to know very much about the industry -- having never donated eggs or used donor eggs myself -- but something about this movie doesn't sit totally right with me. I'm sure there are doctors who don't handle egg donation exactly as one might like. And my heart goes out to women for whom the process has gone horribly wrong.
But it's worth keeping in mind that there are also a lot of egg-donation success stories. I personally know one delightful little girl who was conceived that way and is being raised by wonderfully loving parents who would not otherwise have been able to have a child. There are also egg donors who have spoken out against the film's claims, saying that they have participated to no ill effect, simply because they wanted to help other women have children.
Ultimately, it is and should be a woman's choice as to whether or not to donate her eggs. As long as she goes into it with open eyes and is fully informed of any potential risks, and provided it is considered medically safe for her, I don't see why she should be prevented from making that decision herself.
On the other hand, those women's rights and their health should be protected (maybe that's why NOW recently co-sponsored a screening on Capitol Hill?). So I suppose if a movie like this results in a closer look at the industry, ultimately ensuring that better safeguards are in place for donors, that wouldn't be the worst thing.
Do you think egg donation exploits women? Have you ever been part of the donor process?
Image via squant/Flickr