New York Stem Cell Research Plan Bashed, Exploits Women for Research Eggs

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 8, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New York Stem Cell Research Plan Bashed, Exploits Women for Research Eggs

by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 8
, 2009

Albany, NY ( — The Empire State Stem Cell Board, charged with overseeing $600 million in state taxpayer funds for stem cell research, is expected to issue a recommendation Thursday that the state use taxpayer funds to pay women who allow for the extraction of their eggs for research purposes.

The board is considering up to $10,000 per retrieval and the eggs would be used in human cloning and embryonic stem cell research that has never helped any patients.

The move would make New York the only state in the nation to allow tax-funded compensation for women who subject themselves to the painful egg-extraction process for donations for research and goes against recent decisions in states like California and Massachusetts, which prohibit payment for eggs for research.

The proposal is coming under fire from pro-life groups that say such a move would exploit women for dubious research purposes.

“The New York State Stem Cell Board is poised to facilitate the exploitation of low-income women by using taxpayer funds to pay for the retrieval of eggs," Kathleen Gallagher, director of pro-life activities for the New York State Catholic Conference, told

"This is a grossly unethical, dangerous and exploitative move that treats women’s body parts as commodities. It must be rejected. If the Stem Cell Board itself moves forward with this proposal, then the state Legislature must act to prevent it," she explained.

Gallagher says the payments would, in the current economic climate, "will induce low-income women who are struggling to put food on their table to undergo this painful and dangerous procedure."

"Such women face serious health risks and loss of fertility. Vulnerable women should not be coerced into risking their health and their lives for speculative science with speculative benefits," she added.

Gallagher added that the supposed medical benefits from the research don’t "mitigate the ethical lapse."

"Scientists are seeking these eggs to clone human embryos, which will be subsequently destroyed for their stem cells. Yet the science of stem cell research is moving in the opposite direction, toward research involving adult stem cells and the reprogramming of ordinary skin cells to act identical to embryonic cells," she explained.

Gallagher called for the state legislature to approve a bill that would ban paying women for their eggs for research.

The ESSCB Ethics Committee voted at its May 12 meeting to recommend that state research funds be provided to researchers who pay women for their eggs.

At its upcoming meeting on June 11, the ESSCB will consider providing state money for direct payments to women to try to obtain human eggs for research.

Fr. Thomas Berg, a member of the ESSCB’s Ethics Committee, and Executive Director of the Westchester Institute, also disagrees with the decision.

"In a desperate quest and unprecedented measure to obtain women’s eggs to create embryos for research purposes, New York will waste taxpayers money on unproven science, and women who take the bait will be risking their health and future fertility," he said.

"I can assure you, it won’t be the upper-class set who responds to state inducement and risks potentially life- threatening side-effects of human egg harvesting; it will be the vulnerable classes of cash-strapped and college-aged women who will be exploited by the state in this scheme," he added.

Jennifer Lahl, founder and national director for the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, addressed the risks that are involved in the egg harvesting procedure.

"The egg donation process has well documented risks associated with the dangerous drugs taken to produce abnormally large numbers of eggs along with the risks of anesthesia and surgery to remove the eggs. Added to these dangers are the longer term risks associated with cancers and damage to the donors’ future fertility," she explained.

Dorinda Bordlee, Vice President and Senior Counsel for the Bioethics Defense Fund, also criticized the ESSCB plan in light of recent scientific advances in the field of adult stem cell research.

"This unethical move that endangers women’s health is completely unnecessary given the breakthrough methods that produce patient-specific stem cells without the need for cloning, embryos or eggs," she said.

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