By LUCY ORMONDE
A 20-something woman is desperately struggling to pay her rent. She works as a freelance writer but the income isn’t cutting it, so she makes a fraught decision to sell her body.
In the traditional sense “selling your body” means sex work but this isn’t a story about prostitution. This is a story about a girl who wanted to sell her body parts. Specifically, her eggs.
In the USA, women can legally “donate” their eggs for financial compensation of up to $10,000 per cycle.
And egg donation is no easy business. The women who are involved, certainly earn their money. A typical donor must have a full physical examination, ultrasounds, blood tests, genetic tests, access to family medical records, take fertility medications and go through egg retrieval.
But for women who are struggling financially, $10,000 is not just a lot of money – it can be life changing – and it is absolutely worth it.
In a recent article for Slate Magazine, Kaye Cain-Nielson wrote about her reasons for signing up for egg donation- namely the $8000 compensation and the allure of a “freedom from debt”.*
I could use the money. I could assess the risks as abstractions: Who is to say that I would rage uncontrollably at the excessive doses of hormones? Would it be so bad? Would cancer be so bad? What seemed less abstract was my need to eat, have shelter, and the luxury of time to live rather than simply work, work, work.
Egg donation, as an option, can be seen at once demeaning and empowering: A job that no one else but a woman can have — or rather, a racially pre-selected, usually white, struggling, middle-class, educated woman — can have.
For the infertile, the homosexual, the single, and the well-to-do, egg donation is another of the joyous luxuries of modern science.
The egg donation industry is perhaps the only industry in the USA where the number of ‘jobs’ currently outweighs the number of applicants. But the wait for those couples who are seeking a donor egg is absolutely nothing compared to the situation in Australia.
Here at home it’s illegal to pay for any type of human tissue. So payments for eggs or sperm like the $10,000 figures that are offered in the US, is out of the question.
There can be small compensation offered to donors to cover expenses incurred (such as travel and time spent away from work) but it’s definitely not something that could be considered income.
The situation is different for men’s reproductive products though; sperm donors are given about $300 per donation and they can donate five times.