September 19, 2009

Couples accused of exploiting egg donors

Increasing numbers of poor foreign women are being exploited by British couples who buy human eggs to conceive, critics of the practice contend.

Hundreds of British couples travel to Spain, Romania and Ukraine each month to buy eggs from vulnerable women willing to take health risks to make money, fertility expert Naomi Pfeffer told the Motherhood in the 21st Century Conference at University College London.

It commodifies women's bodies and treats their reproductive capacities as a service, Pfeffer said, calling so-called fertility tourism a form of prostitution.

Typically, egg donors take contraceptive pills to control their fertility cycle then use hormonal nasal sprays and injections to stimulate egg production, Sammy Lee, a British fertility expert told The Times of London in a story published Saturday. The donors undergo light anaesthesia while a needle pierces the vaginal wall to retrieve follicles containing eggs, he said.

One of the reasons people are going to Europe is that it is so hard to get eggs in Britain, Lee said. It's going to happen more because people are looking for areas where the law and guidelines are less strict, where they can pay donors and donors are more available.