The Corner

Health Care

Experimenters Pay Mexican Women to Get Pregnant and Abort

Tools used in abortions displayed at an office of Korea Pro-Life in Seoul, South Korea, in 2008. (Lee Jae-Won/Reuters)

Women in Mexico were paid $1400 to be hyperstimulated so their ovaries released bountiful eggs instead of one during their cycle. They then underwent artificial insemination, resulting in early pregnancy with multiple embryos, which were then flushed out of their bodies for study. From the NPR story:

Researchers have conducted a controversial study that involved paying dozens of young women at a hospital near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to get artificially inseminated so their embryos could be flushed out of their bodies and analyzed for research purposes.

The study showed that embryos created that way appear to be as healthy genetically as embryos created through standard in vitro fertilization. Physically, the embryos appear to, possibly, even be healthier, the study found…

In addition, some women underwent surgical or chemical abortions afterward, when tests indicated some of the embryos might not have been successfully removed.

Some of the surviving embryos were later used to impregnate other women. Others were frozen.

This “experiment” was very wrong on at least four fronts. First, it created human life for the purpose of experimenting upon it. Second, it paid women to have abortions (when all the embryos were not flushed). Third, it treated women as objects, merely as “a Petri dish,” to quote bioethicist Lorie Zoloth (with whom I have had my differences in the past, but not here). Fourth, hyperstimulation can have serious side effects, even leading to occasional death. Add in the likelihood that the women were very poor, and you have a real exploitive circumstance.

My friend, the bioethicist William Hurlbut of Stanford, calls experiments such as this “outsourcing ethics,” that is, scientists conduct immoral or questionable studies out of the country that would probably not be allowed — or dared — to be pursued in the United States.

But it all passed ethical muster, don’t you know!

Munne defends the research, noting that it was reviewed extensively and approved by the Ministry of Health of the State of Nayarit, in Mexico, and the Western Institutional Review Board in the United States. The women were fully informed of any potential risks, Munne says.

“We passed all the ethical committees and all the ethical checks and balances,” he says.

And what in the hell does that tell you?

The idea here is to create a new method for the fertility industry, in which women will be paid to mass produce embryos within their bodies — surrogate conception, let’s call it — which will then be flushed out in the lab. After that, embryos will be subjected to quality control procedures — perhaps including sex selection. Those that pass quality control will be implanted in women who want to give birth or who become pregnant as surrogate “gestational carriers,” in the dehumanizing parlance of the industry. And all for big bucks.

Big Fertility is fast becoming a moral hazard.

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