The Transnational Fertility Market

According to the BBC, there is a growing trend among Western Europe’s well-to-do to travel to Romania for egg donations. Wait-lists for egg donations in the UK may be as long as seven years, while they are readily available in the Romanian market.
In Bucharest, women earn up to £150 for donating their eggs. Due to Romania’s relatively low standard of living, earning more than a month’s wages for egg donation may seem like a steal. However, given the extensive medical procedures involved in the donation, including hormone treatments and surgical egg retrieval, the profit isn’t as great as it may seem.
This is an issue that I have a hard time wrapping my head around. I believe in giving women agency to make decisions about their body. And I think that women should have the ability to use their bodies for financial gain or to help others. *BUT* given the realities of international political economies, I feel uncomfortable in advocating for the right of affluent Western women to travel abroad and consume the eggs of women in lesser developed countries.
Dr. Stephen Wilkinson, a medical ethics specialist, notes that: “[Egg donation] is such a difficult area of ethics. One the one hand, people are benefiting from the money. But on the other, we do have this residual concern about exploitation and about inducing women to do something that’s not in their best interests.” Ummm yeah. Not to mention the underlying issues of xenophobia and racism.
It’s no coincidence that women in Romania earn £150 for a donation, while women in the UK earn upwards of £1000 and women in the US receive around $8000.
Also, interesting to note is that in both the UK and the US women are paid for their “time and effort” in the egg donation process–not for the eggs themselves. The idea behind this policy is that payment should not be the primary motivation in donation. BUT considering that women in their twenties are the target suppliers of eggs, this ethical consideration seems out of touch with the realities of the market. Thoughts?
Check out Becoming an Egg Donor for more info.

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