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is the process of giving a product or services a market price. The challenge arises
from distinguishing the legal activities that utilize the human body or its
abilities are used from those deemed to be illegal. Ruth Macklin, author of What is wrong with commodification? states,

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service in our economy is sold: academics sell their minds; athletes sell their
bodies…. If a pretty actress can sell her appearance and skill for
television, why should a fecund woman be denied the ability to sell her eggs?
Why is one more demeaning than the other?”

legality of the market exchange of certain items can be better understood with
the analogy relating the market exchange of votes to that of gametes. It is
illegal for citizens to sell their votes to a certain candidate for a price. Even
if the exchange is fully voluntary, Michael Walzer gives voting as an example
of a market exchange that should be blocked. The reason why votes may not be
sold is that democracy is undermined if votes can be bought, which conflicts
with the rationale for having the institution of voting whose intention is to express
the will of the people in a democracy. Using the case of voting as a persuasive
rationale for the injustice in selling certain market values, a similarly
persuasive justification can be used for the illegality of selling human body
products, including sperm and egg. Suzanne Holland asserts,

“For many of us, our sense of the
dignity of humanity is fundamentally disturbed by the suggestion that that
which bears the marks of personhood can somehow be equated with property. We do
not wish to have certain aspects of that which we associate with our personhood
sold off on the market for whatever the market will bear.”

The inalienable status of the human
body asserts that eggs should not be seen as property. The sale of such products
leads to greater level of exploitation for individuals susceptible to the lower
spectrum of the socioeconomic scale.



Financial Motives of Gamete Donation

Though exploitation is possible in almost
any financial transaction, by putting a price on bodily artifacts, people are
subjected to a level of exploitation through political and economic means that
can vie for the legality of other unethical dilemmas such as organ sale.

Therefore, payments for reproductive services, including egg and sperm donation,
should be banned. Cohen in The Price of
Everything, The Value of Nothing, asserts that with regards to an unethical
transaction, an exchange is corrupting when “the relevant goods cannot be
aligned along a single metric without doing violence to our considered
judgments about how these goods are best characterized.” The altruistic
donation of egg and sperm lead to less exploitation as women often use the
payments from donating her eggs to pay
for college fees or to feed her family. With egg and sperm donation, ethical
lines are blurred since the “the voluntariness formulation asks whether consent
to the transaction was truly voluntary, given society’s background distribution
of resources. Its roots lie in the Kantian idea that humans cannot realize their
true nature as free and rational beings if they are unduly influenced by the
coercive effects of money,” making the convincing argument that there is indeed
no altruism involved in the financial retribution of egg and sperm donation.

donation plays an important role in infertility practice, by helping women and
men have children through nontraditional methods. The access to egg donation,
is in large due to donors being paid for their services. Some view the term altruistic deed of
“commercial egg donation” as an oxymoron, as Thomas Murray writes,
“Despite the repeated reference to ‘donors’ of both ovum and sperm, paying
individuals for their biological products makes them vendors, not donors. Examples
of altruistic acts are usually reserved for ones’ offspring or blood relative.

In cases where a child needs an organ transplant, a parent or sibling will
willing lend the needed organ in order to see someone they care about live. The
case can be made that humans are not intrinsically altruistic, thus the sale of
gametes serve as an exploitative form of financial, political, or social

While some egg donors are motivated in
part by altruistic considerations, most women would not be egg donors without
financial compensation. Data collected from women at an egg donation
orientation analyzed the main motives for donation, with factors including
altruism, financial compensation, and the potential to pass on genetic
material. Results were as followed: 81.32% indicated that payment was an
important factor in their decision, and 40% of the women said that they were
currently students. The 48.35% of women, who were motivated by financial
reasons, cited that “compensation would be used for items such as for school
loans and tuition, medical debt, and to buy a house” (Gezinski). Often, the
majority of women donating eggs are under financial constraint so the
contributions granted by the commodification of their eggs appear worth the
medical risks. Although, men get less allowance per donation, there is relatively
little risk to donating sperm. The form of coercion perpetuated by the monetary
retribution subject women to painful medical procedures for a reproductive

Manipulating the procreation of different political,
economic, and social classes

            The claim stands
that barriers to artificial reproductive treatment serve to manipulate the
procreation of different political, economic, and social classes at a
population level. For the
perspective of the egg or sperm recipient, Cohen states that “while women of
all socioeconomic strata suffer from infertility, only the wealthy can afford
‘premium’ eggs.”  The Western
perspective, has characterized egg donation and surrogacy as being
“exploitative of women in low-income settings, where poverty drives them to become
surrogate mothers” (Arvidsson). By putting a price on reproduction, women
are subjected to a level of exploitation through political and economic means
due to their social class.

aspect of the debate is the distinction between the illegal sale of organs and
the legal sale of eggs and sperms. The sale of organs is illegal in the United States
because the legalization of an organ market could lead to the exploitation of
the poor, who would voluntarily sell essential organs for money, cause an in crease
in murder rate due to the increased value of organs. Moreover, poorer people
would not be able to meet the pricey demands of organs, since donors
would only want to sell to upper classes for higher prices, leading to a
disproportionate number of deaths among the poor population requiring organs. As with the organ donation, egg donation
has associated medical risks for the patient. Offering money to
women leads them to dissuade women from looking closely at risks of egg
donation opens up the potential for coercion or exploitation based on monetary rewards for eggs of donors who
share characteristics that are highly prized such as beauty, athleticism, and
intellectual giftedness.

While Federal law and some states ban the
payment of money for organ donations, these laws do not cover renewable tissue
such as gametes (“Regulating”). For now, the body parts that can be
sold, such as eggs and sperm, are not capable of curing fatal diseases.

However, if for say, kidneys or lungs were on the market, the high demand and
limited supply of product would lead to a dangerous trend in which
higher-income groups were disproportionately targeted. This would leave
lower-income groups at a disadvantage and would not have an equal opportunity
to obtain organs base on their financial status. The argument stands that sperm
and egg purchase is not a fatal condition that would severely disadvantage one
population over another.

Solution- Incomplete

A divide exists between the woman seeking
reproductive services and the woman providing reproductive services in terms of
socioeconomic, political and cultural factors.

The public need for an egg market prompts
women to take medical risks in order to obtain large amounts of reimbursement
funds. Factors to be considered in determining the just compensation for the
time, pain, discomfort, and potential physical risk egg donors face in this
process are considered in the solution proposed by Suzanne
Holland, who suggests a solution called “incomplete commodification”:

respect to gamete donors, an incompletely commodified approach could recognize
that donors are contributing to something that can be seen as a social and
personal good (remedying infertility), even as they deserve a degree of
compensation that constitutes neither a financial burden (if they are paid
too little) nor a temptation to undergo health risk (if paid too much), I
see no reason not to follow the suggestion of the ASRM American Society for
Reproductive Medicine and cap egg donor compensation at $5000…. Allowing
some compensation, but capping it at $5000, would reduce the competition for
eggs and perhaps curb the lure of advertising that is targeted to college
students in need of “easy money.”


If compensation were completely banned,
few women would agree to be egg donors, decreasing the number of eggs in
circulation and raising the prices of the eggs available. Legitimate concerns
about the psychological welfare of the offspring created and the potential for
exploitation of donors speak to the need to limit payments to amounts that are
reasonable and fair in order to curb the coercive effective gamete donation.

Therefore, while payments as a form of incomes should be banned, compensation
for associated medical costs with should be covered, as in the cases of organ
donation, to ensure the donor does not maintain a net loss.

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