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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

California Legislation to Pay for Cloning Eggs



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Human cloning is in the wind! Researchers are working diligently to learn how to accomplish such asexual reproduction, as can now be done in many animals, including monkeys. Once that happens, expect the debate over the legality and ethics of  humancloning to make the embryonic stem cell brouhaha seem like a playful snowball fight.

Cloning of the kind used to make Dolly the sheep, known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, requires one human egg per try. But human eggs (oocytes) are in very short supply. This “egg dearth” (as I call it), has hobbled the bioethic industry from successfully cloning human embryos. I have predicted that will soon change, and now–fueling my suspicion–new California legislation has been filed to permit payment by researchers to women for undergoing egg extraction–which can cost them their health, fecundity, even their lives.

First, the prices paid would be set by the researchers: From AB 926:

(j) This bill will reverse the current ban on compensation for women providing human oocytes for research. Compensation amounts will be determined by human subject research panels and institutional review boards.

Not only that, but IVF clinics will be given a financial incentive to extract eggs or create embryos in excess of need. The bill would permit the set price to be waived if the eggs or embryos came from qualified IVF clinics:

If a woman providing human oocytes for the purposes of fertility is compensated, and any human oocytes or embryos in excess of those needed for fertility are offered for research, the institutional review board shall disregard the amount of compensation if all of the following conditions are met:
(a) The clinic performing oocyte retrieval is a member of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology.
(b) The procurement and disposition for research purposes of human oocytes initially provided for reproductive uses, either for use by the donor or another woman, shall not knowingly compromise the optimal reproductive success of the woman in the infertility treatment.
(c) The infertility treatment protocol is established prior to requesting or obtaining consent for donation for research purposes and the prospect of donation for research does not alter the timing, method, or procedures selected for clinical care. 
(d) The woman in infertility treatment makes the determination that she does not want or need the oocytes for her own reproductive success.
(e) The donation of oocytes for research is done without valuable consideration as defined in Section 125350.

I can’t figure out whether the women would have to consent to using their eggs and embryos in research, or whether they or the clinic would receive the money. But this I do know: Women are being objectified for their procreative body parts, and nascent human life is increasingly being looked upon as a natural resource akin to a copper mine or prize cattle herd. Human objectification is culture changing. We trod down this path at our moral peril.



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