New York has become the only state in the union to pay women to donate eggs for stem cell research.
The extremely controversial program, which should get underway next year, will be run by the Empire State Stem Cell Board, which oversees the $600 million dollars that the state has allocated for stem-cell research over 11 years. New York universities believe in the future benefits of stem cells to combat disease. But such research requires a steady supply of female gametes.
Harvesting eggs is a long process, requiring hormone treatments and outpatient surgery. It's not dangerous, but it's not as simple as donating blood, and it's no fun for the woman. So NYS will compensate women for their egg donation, with between $5,000 and $10,000.
Opponents say this will lead to desperate women selling their eggs. They're right, it will. Poor women and/or addicted women will be among the donors. So will college girls seeking to finance education, a car, or spring break at Acapulco. Should it be forbidden because exploitation is a possibility?
I think not. If women are legally allowed to control their own bodies with regard to abortion, surely they should be legally allowed to control their own eggs. And yet horrific situations may result. I wrote a novel about this -- but apparently it wasn't horrific enough, since the book never sold.
Last week the news reported that a scientist had succeeded in coaxing a stem cell from a woman to turn into a sperm. Theoretically, this woman could now fertilize herself. It's a wild ride into reproductive technology that the twenty-first century will take us on. I just wish I could live the whole century. I want to know how the story turns out.