Gametes: Commodification and The Fertility Industry
The Routledge Handbook of Commodification, Vida Panitch and Elodie Bertrand eds.
Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2023-35
14 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2023 Last revised: 22 Apr 2023
Date Written: April 19, 2023
In August of 2021, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine published its most recent opinion on the financial compensation of oocyte (egg) donors. For those not steeped in the historical controversy surrounding egg donor compensation in the United States, the document likely appears unexceptional. Within historical context, however, the guidelines represent an important change in conceptions of oocyte commodification. First, and most importantly, the most recent guidelines contain no mention of acceptable or recommended compensation levels, nor do they analogize egg donation to sperm donation for purposes of payment comparison. The guidelines thus showcase the final abandonment of a decades-long attempt by the fertility industry to control egg donor compensation. Second, after more than twenty years of promoting ethical worries about oocyte commodification, the guidelines explicitly acknowledge -- for the first time -- that commodification concerns are rarely raised in the context of sperm donation. Finally, the guidelines emphasize that a failure to treat egg donors as adult women capable of making their own risk-return tradeoffs regarding their bodies and livelihoods would be demeaning and unfair. This chapter uses the development and eventual abandonment of these ASRM pricing guidelines over more than twenty-five years as a lens through which to understand commodification debates in both the sperm and egg markets.
Keywords: gametes, eggs, oocytes, sperm, price fixing, commodification, undue influence, exploitation, equal access
JEL Classification: K00, K21, K32,
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation