Recap of Our Trip to Spain, Surrogacy Fiction and Fact, A Call for Egg Donor Follow-up Research

by Matthew Eppinette, CBC Executive Director on May 5, 2017

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#StopSurrogacyNow in Spain

Jennifer and I spent last week in Madrid, Spain, as part of our Stop Surrogacy Now project. Among the members of the Stop Surrogacy Now coalition joining us there was Pierrette Pape, Policy and Campaigns Director for the European Women’s Lobby (EWL). She wrote a recap of our time together, and it is posted over on the Stop Surrogacy Now website.

[Madrid, 26 April 2017] An international panel of #StopSurrogacyNow campaigners were in Madrid this April, to meet with decision-makers and NGOs, and raise awareness on the need for a global abolition of the practice of surrogacy. Through a public event featuring the screening of the documentary Breeders: A Subclass of Women?, they shared their experience, vision, and recommendations with regards to this new form of commodification of women’s and children’s body.

Be sure to read the whole piece for the full recap of our activities there. Notice, in particular, the sampling of media attention our visit garnered. Spain has an active debate over whether to legalize the practice of surrogacy, and the media took considerable notice of our message. In fact, interviews are still underway via Skype, even though we’ve been back nearly a week now!

Fiction and Fact

From HuluAs we were dashing off to Spain, Jennifer weighed in on the premier of Hulu’s version of The Handmaid’s Tale and the true reality of surrogacy. From “The Handmaid’s Tale Shows Exploited Surrogacy as Fiction, but it’s Happening in our World Today.”

Today, issues with infertility and the rise of non-traditional couples have made surrogacy a popular topic; one often revered as a positive option for people who are unable to bear children naturally. But The Handmaid’s Tale shows the side of surrogacy much less talked about—but not the least bit uncommon. In reality, surrogacy is not simply a means to an end. For many surrogates, the process is rooted in coercion, exploitation, and emotional distress.

. . .

We need to expose the myth that surrogacy is as charitable an endeavor as many think it is. In fact, it leaves countless exploited women in its wake. We need to provide a clearer picture of the reality that such women are not left economically empowered. We need to work together as feminists, activists, experts, and academics to stop this global trading on the female body. We need to encourage the United States to catch up to the rest of the world in restricting surrogacy.

Surrogacy degrades a pregnancy to a service and a baby to a product. I wish the harms of surrogacy existed only in the confines of dystopian novels and TV series. Unfortunately, they exist in the real world. Here’s hoping our outrage at the fictional mistreatment of women in The Handmaid’s Tale will lead to outrage in the real world.

You can read the full piece here. Image credit: Hulu.

A Call for Follow-up, Research, and Informed Consent

On Monday, May 1, Jennifer along with colleagues Jennifer Schneider and Wendy Kramer had a very important commentary piece published in the journal Reproductive BioMedicine Online.

The title of the piece is “Long-term breast cancer risk following ovarian stimulation in young egg donors: a call for follow-up, research and informed consent,” and it argues that because no one has done or is doing long-term follow-up on egg donors, we simply do not know what the long-term risks are. The article includes five brief stories of egg donors with breast cancer, as well as a summary of breast cancer studies. The full article abstract is below.

They had to move mountains to get this piece published—the kinds of questions they raise are simply not welcome—so after you’ve read it, please share it far and wide. We’re told that it will be available FREE for 50 days, so don’t delay.

Read Online
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Abstract
In the USA and other countries, oocyte donation is gaining increasing importance. Although sufficient data exist on procedure-associated short-term risks for oocyte donors, such as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, long-term follow-up studies of egg donors are lacking and their health risks are unknown. The lack of information may be misleadingly interpreted as lack of risk. Long-term hormone replacement therapy is recognized as a risk factor for breast cancer; the breast cancer risk of ovarian stimulation for egg donors is unknown but is a possibility. This commentary describes five individual cases of egg donors who developed breast cancer (four out of five women in their 30s) despite negative genetic testing results. Additionally, we summarize available studies of breast cancer in infertile women who experienced IVF. We emphasize the need to create egg donor registries that will facilitate long-term studies on egg donors. Until this information is available, we call for more realistic explanations to egg donors about the lack of knowledge of long-term risks as well as more transparent informed consent documents.

Read Online
Download PDF

Conclusion

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