.- A pro-life feminist group has filed suit to block the use of New York state taxpayer funds to pay women recruited to donate their eggs for embryonic stem cell research. Feminists Choosing Life of New York (FCLNY) filed the suit in the New York State Supreme Court last Friday.
“New York State has the responsibility to protect women,” commented FCLNY Executive Director Wendy McVeigh. “Instead, the state is using taxpayers’ dollars to entice young, economically vulnerable women to experiment in this medically risky procedure.”
The complaint in the case Feminists Choosing Life of New York v. Empire State Stem Cell Board charges that the board provides “significant monetary inducements to women” to engage in a “painful and risky procedure” that disproportionately appeals to economically vulnerable women.
The suit also charges that the payment program does not meet standards of informed consent and lacks other safeguards to ensure the disclosure of the risks associated with egg harvesting.
“There are no studies on the long-term safety effects of the medications and procedures used to extract eggs via hormonal stimulation,” the complaint says. “For this reason, researchers cannot fully inform donors of the risks of egg harvesting, making the woman’s consent incomplete and of dubious validity.”
In 2007 the New York state legislature committed $600 million to stem cell research. On June 11, 2009 the Empire State Stem Cell Board (ESSCB), which is responsible for administering the funds, passed a resolution authorizing up to $10,000 to be used to compensate young women who donate their eggs for research.
At the time of the decision Fr. Thomas Berg, who is a member of the ESSCB’s Ethics Committee and Executive Director of the Westchester Institute bioethics think tank, criticized the board for not allowing public comment. He also charged that the plan was “a gross exploitation of women for speculative research.”
Responding to the criticism, the Stem Cell Board issued a statement that said, “[e]xperiences in other jurisdictions indicate that lack of reasonable compensation to women who donate their oocytes to stem cell research has created a significant impediment to such donation, limiting the progress of stem cell research.”
The Board also added that New York state allows women to be compensated for donating their eggs for reproductive purposes and that, given full disclosure, the practice of reimbursing those who donate for research is “widely accepted as ethical.”
New York is the first U.S. state to provide such payments to egg donors.
According to FCLNY, the significant health risks of egg donation include ovarian hyper-stimulation, clotting disorders, kidney damage, ovarian twisting, pulmonary embolism, damage to future fertility, and stroke.
The National Institutes of Health guidelines for embryonic stem cell research recommend against payments to egg donors. The National Academies of Sciences’ guidelines also recommend that no cash or in kind payments be paid for egg donation.