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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

December 12, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

Donations offer shaky bargain

Cash strapped and desperate for work in a lousy job market, students may turn to egg and sperm donation as an alternative way to pay the bills. With tuition for Ithaca College at more than $35,000 per year, these non-traditional ways of making money could gain popularity among young adults.

One caution though: the fertility industry is largely unregulated. A recent New York Times article found instances where a single sperm donor fathered 150 children. It’s clear why egg and sperm banks target college students: they are always looking for quick cash and may overlook the fine print.

From 2003 to 2009, the Center for Human Reproduction found an 18 percent increase in the number of U.S. egg donations. While compensation rates vary from $4,000 to $10,000, the Joan and Sandford I. Weill Medical College at Cornell University gives donors $8,000 per retrieval. But this isn’t a painless process. After passing medical screenings, donors endure six weeks of in-vitro fertilization injections prior to the actual retrieval. Serious, but rare risks include damage to the ovaries.

Sperm donors receive less compensation, between $30 and $200 per donation. Higher payments for specimens often go to donors with more desirable physical characteristics and higher IQs. Most sperm banks require donors to commit to a certain number of sperm donations over a given period of time, which can range from two months to two years.

It’s disconcerting that the sperm and egg donation industry capitalizes on reproductive systems. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine found more than 100 ads for egg donors in 300 college newspapers. But when students are baited into the process, they may not fully understand the risks associated with it.

Letting opportunities like these slip away could be financially irresponsible. For college students that aren’t actively using their eggs or sperm, donation could be a viable option to make money and help couples that are unable to have children.

If students see donation as helping desperate couples, there’s a built-in moral out. Anyone willing to pay a minimum of $15,000 for donated eggs is committed to parenthood. In a financial climate where post-graduate jobs are difficult to find and debt is hard to escape, the monetary rewards may outweigh the risks.

The extra cash might convince students to bargain with their bodies. But these bottom line interests risk objectifying students’ reproductive systems.