In the 42 years since its invention, over eight million babies have been born from in vitro fertilisation (IVF), as well as other advanced fertility treatments. Today, there have been 1 million IVF treatments in the UK, with close to 300,000 babies being born from it. While the majority of people who conceive with IVF use their own eggs, in 2016, donor eggs were used for nearly 4,000 treatments.
As the New York Times explains, while the CDC collects information on the number of rounds of in vitro fertilisations completed each year, no one tracks those who donate their eggs: “Once donors walk out the door, they are essentially lost to medical history.” The donation process involves taking a series of fertility drug injections to stimulate the ovaries in order to produce many eggs at one time, instead of the single egg most people typically release each cycle. After the eggs are produced, they’re removed through a minor surgical procedure.
Others have raised ethical concerns: it the UK egg donation is done altruistically - which means that it's voluntary but you will be paid £750 in compensation. But certain overseas private clinics will pay much more and those with “desirable traits” can make considerably more — which means that people are paid more if they’re of a certain race or ethnic background, fit certain beauty ideals, or went to Ivy League universities. In the US, those numbers can reach in the the thousands. “A poor Black woman or a poor Hispanic woman doesn’t suffer less [during the process] than someone who is Asian or Jewish or a Stanford graduate,” bioethicist Laurie Zoloth told the Los Angeles Times in 2012. “The fact that we think of these gametes as having particular worth depending on race and class is really one of the starkest examples of how capitalism has entered the market in human parts.”
We talked to three women who donated their egg in the US: two anonymously, and one to close friends.