Babies+and+Bones+for+Sale - Chapter One Babies and Bones...

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Chapter One Babies and Bones for Sale ‘A global market in baby-making’ On the recreation room bulletin board in a Spanish university, a poster urges ‘Help them! Give life!’ The target audience is to be found in cash-strapped female students, who are being asked to sell their eggs to a profit-making fertility clinic for 1000 Euros. A little emotional appeal to altruism—‘Give life!’-- helps the advertising campaign, perhaps, but the eggs aren’t really a gift: these women sell their eggs. In doing so, they take their part in an expanding global market in baby-making, as do the couples who buy the eggs through IVF clinics. ‘In these cases, and thousands like them,’ as the American commentator Debora Spar writes in her book The Baby Business, ‘ the parents aren’t motivated by commercial instincts, and they hardly see themselves as “shopping” for their offspring. Yet they are still intimately involved with both a market operation and a political calculation.’ 1 . Spain numbers a total of 165 private fertility clinics offering in-vitro fertilization (IVF)—more than any other European country 2 . Many offer astonishingly good results, far better than the dismal rates of success that IVF often produces. The secret of their success is that they have stopped employing surplus ova (eggs) from other IVF users, in the process euphemistically known as egg ‘sharing’, because these women are ‘too old’. By definition, this hard-nosed reasoning goes, any woman attending an IVF clinic has a fertility problem. Instead, the for-profit Spanish clinics target young women at the peak of their fertility, such as students, and pay them for their ova. So do the many private US clinics who pay for eggs. Advertisements like the one on the Spanish university bulletin board regularly circulate in US college newspapers, offering egg ‘donors’ amounts up to $50,000, 3 from an average of $4,500 4 . ‘Desirability’ of genetic traits primarily determines the price: blond, tall, athletic and musical donors command the higher rates, at considerable risk to themselves. One report documented the taking of seventy eggs at one time from a ‘donor’ who nearly died in the process. 5 The US market for fertility treatment operates on a gargantuan scale. Americans paid well over $37 million dollars for ‘donor’ eggs in 2002 alone. 6 Monies paid to egg sellers, however, were dwarfed by revenues to drug companies for fertility drugs (over $1.3 billion) and to IVF clinics (just over $1 billion.) The Center for Egg Donation in Los Angeles, the first commercial egg ‘brokerage’ service, opened for business in 1991, followed rapidly by larger brokers like the Center for Surrogate Parenting, the Genetics and IVF Institute and the Repository for Germinal Choice. A full-fledged market has now emerged, with a differentiated pricing structure following geographical trends: highest in New York, lowest in the Midwest. The Center for Egg Donation boasts an online database from which clients 1
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This note was uploaded on 11/10/2011 for the course POLI SCI 790:395 taught by Professor Daniels during the Spring '11 term at Rutgers.

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Babies+and+Bones+for+Sale - Chapter One Babies and Bones...

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