A guest post by writer, speaker, and activist Melinda Tankard Reist
Maggie, a ten-times egg donor in her early twenties, was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 32. It spread to her liver and bones. To hear her speak of her shame “in admitting that I willingly chose to do something that I thought I was informed about…” is heartbreaking. And to then zoom out from the focus on her tragedy, to see the context within the billion dollar fertility industry, becomes enraging.
Maggie emphasizes that she was not coerced to donate her eggs. But clearly she was courted and flattered by the clinic, as one of the “special ones,” as a member of their “donor family.” It did not occur to her to say no to donating again and again, because in her mind she would then be saying “no, I don’t want to help people.” She was never informed that the recipient of her eggs could then sell them. At the time it was an experience of altruism on her part, and what she thought was caring and professional treatment by the fertility clinic.
And she was crushed when, while discussing treatment for her cancer, her own primary care physician told her that the clinic doctors certainly had access to the knowledge that exposure to fertility drugs is known to increase chances of certain types of cancer. This was her first confirmation that “this person I thought cared about me [the clinic doctor] probably was just using me.” Maggie does not accuse, but it is disturbing that her breast lump was initially dismissed; since she was so young, it could not be cancer. She was provided with that first mammogram by the fertility clinic. They also knew she had precancerous cells detected during a pap smear. They nonetheless continued administering fertility drugs and harvesting her eggs.
Judging by the clamor of the fertility industry to criticize her films, we know Jennifer Lahl is onto something. Elizabeth Falker, a lawyer who profits from arranging assisted reproduction contracts, begs: “please don’t see it [Eggsploitation] if you are considering either becoming an egg donor or using an egg donor to build a family.” And she requests that the movie industry does not endorse Lahl’s work. After all, she says, “many a Hollywood family has been created through the gift of egg donation.”
Many others in the fertility industry dismiss the stories in Eggsploitation as being insignificant. They want to reduce women’s experiences to the lesser categories of “anecdotal evidence” and “scare tactics” – ironically, using their own reassuring anecdotal evidence that they have never personally seen a donor die or develop cancer – and women’s stories apparently cannot compete with “scientific evidence.”
The problem is that there is no scientific evidence. There is no long-term data available, and none is being gathered, on the effects of egg donation from healthy, young women. So the ‘informed consent’ process is a sham. Right now, Lahl says, all we have is women’s stories – and the fertility industry wants to keep it that way. So Maggie’s story needs to be told. She tells it courageously and intelligently, objectively, with a clear and balanced hindsight. Watch this film, and those that came before it (Eggsploitation, Anonymous Father’s Day, and Breeders?) to see what it is that the billion dollar fertility business doesn’t want you do know.
Watch Maggie’s Story at https://vimeo.com/ondemand/maggie
Use the code STANDWITHMAGGIE during the month of August for a 25% discount on rental or purchase