An egg donor’s tale : the need for reproductive justice in the U.S. oocyte donation industry

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2021-05-04

Authors

Lyon, Anna Patricia McCullough

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Abstract

The donor-assisted fertility industry is booming in the United States, where assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) remain largely unregulated. Other biomedical technologies, such as genome mapping, consumer genotyping services, and preimplantation embryo testing have received much scholarly attention, as have sperm donation and gestational surrogacy. Egg donation, however, has received surprisingly little medical or social science research. This dissertation observes the ethical complexities of egg donation, tracing the U.S. fertility industry’s roots to problematic medical histories like eugenics, slave breeding, and experimentation on enslaved people. U.S. egg donor programs have not fully disentangled from those roots, and they continue to privilege wealth, white beauty standards, and genetic interpretations of success and life potential when recruiting, marketing, and matching their donors with intended parents. In addition to the eugenic injustices this industry reproduces, egg donors themselves often experience a lack of reproductive justice or patient-centered care when navigating the industry, even when they feel proud or financially empowered by their arrangements.

This dissertation’s main argument is that egg donors deserve better, and that legal regulations are needed to ensure greater reproductive justice for donors. My work draws on primary sources and existing scholarship about the history of the fertility industry, as well as on interviews conducted with thirty-six U.S.-based egg donors and four fertility industry professionals. It also incorporates an analysis of fertility industry promotional materials and activist materials from egg donors and donor-conceived people, who have their own needs and rights related to donor conception regulations. Finally, this dissertation highlights the work of several organizations that are already modeling greater reproductive justice for donors and donor-conceived people, using these organizations as a basis to imagine realistic regulations that could bring greater reproductive justice to egg donation in the United States.

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