"Seeking healthy females (ages 18 to 33) willing to donate eggs to infertile women. Call or e-mail for information. Please include name and address. $2000 for complete participation. Anonymity is preserved."
Let's take a look at this seemingly harmless plea for help.
Seeking healthy females. Think you're healthy? Well, if you want to be an egg donor, healthy has little to do with how much you exercise or how many Luna bars you eat. Healthy means having wanted genes - fair, blond, blue-eyed, 5 feet 10 inches tall, with no hereditary diseases in your family for four generations. Many female donors fit into these categories -- look for an in-vitro Aryan generation running around in a few years.
Ads at Ivy League schools ask for egg producers who scored 1300 or better on their SATs. Guess that explains why couples are seeking egg producers here instead of at N.C. State.
Parents also want nice kids, so they search out altruistic women who want to help. Ironic, don't you think? How much kindness can you expect from kids whose mothers sold them to the highest bidders?
Willing to donate eggs to infertile women. Willingness is an understatement. Consider the monthlong process of sucking future embryos out: psychological analysis, hormonal drugs, invasive procedures and unlimited risks.
Before the little suckers are extracted, expect questions like, "What will you do when your child knocks on the door, all grown up?" Former eggs showing up on your doorstep in 20 years might be somewhat disturbing.
Medically, egg extraction is similar to an alien abduction. A donor creates a harvesting environment by first taking drugs with menopausal effects. After three weeks of daily injections of the drugs Pergonal and Metrodin, the ovaries expand to baseball size, creating a dozen eggs. Then the eggs are sucked out through a freakin' huge needle.
The risks of egg donation are uncertain. Some women may develop cervical cancer or infertility themselves.
Call or e-mail for information. Please include name and address. Don't let a local phone number fool you. Instead of matching a donor with a family, some ads are part of a scheme to add women's names to databases. There are more than 200 egg donation agencies in the United States that advertise profusely in order to build up these databases. Recent ads offering $50,000 dollars were actually fraudulent advertisements for donor banks, not needy customers. These ads influence women into giving up genetic maps of themselves -- for a price.
Let's face it, women's eggs are hot commodities, and there is a market to buy. Men have been selling sperm since the 1960s, and now women have the chance to catch up -- that's gender equality.
$2,000 for complete participation. Easy money, that's what it all comes down to. Yet men and women are recompensed at very different rates. A man donating sperm receives an average of $50 for about one hour of work. At that rate, women who take one month to make a donation should receive $36,000. As it stands, a woman's hourly rate is about $2.78.
The difference in payment can be blamed on a society that values men over women. But, as the price of prefertilized children increases -- to upward of tens of thousands of dollars -- you have to wonder who wants to raise kids whose biological mothers sold them to total strangers.
Anonymity is preserved. Of course it is -- a future kid can't discern who his or her real mother is. "Is it the woman whose baseball-sized ovary I popped out of?" "Is it the surrogate who carried me for nine months?" "Or is it the woman I have called Mama all my life?"
These are confusing questions, and women might not want their biological offspring knowing who they are for reasons of guilt, greed or genuine concern for the child's welfare.
Think back to what your mother always said: "When it seems too good to be true, it probably is." A classified ad offering women a financial solution by selling their eggs is this century's high-tech prostitution. Is it really worth it to finance your future on your children's backs? Or do you want the chance to advise your own children as to the rights and wrongs of the world, as your mother did?
Rachel Hockfield earned $8.34 in the time it took to write this column, but she won't see any of it. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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