New York Stem Cell Research Board Agrees to Pay for Women’s Eggs for Science

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 12, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New York Stem Cell Research Board Agrees to Pay for Women’s Eggs for Science

by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 12
, 2009

Albany, NY ( — The Empire State Stem Cell Board has agreed to a new plan, that has been soundly criticized by pro-life advocates, using taxpayer funds to pay women who allow for the extraction of their eggs for research purposes. The board will use money from the $600 million in state taxpayer funds it oversees.

The board has authorized 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 decision makes 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.

Fr. Thomas Berg, member of the Ethics Committee of the ESSCB, and director of the of the Westchester Institute, told the decision was wrongheaded.

"Without any involvement from the public, who might like to know that state cash will be used as an inducement for underprivileged and cash-strapped women to undergo a risky and potentially dangerous procedure, this Board has set in place a plan to allow payments to women who undergo ovarian stimulation," he said.

Berg says the decision puts women’s health at risk.

"With full knowledge that the long-term effects of ovarian stimulation are unknown, and data suggesting a link with some forms of cancer, this Board — comprised of unelected appointees — has unconscionably, and on behalf of the taxpayers, set in place a plan that will put women at risk and lets the state pay them off with lots of money," Berg explained.

"Ovarian stimulation is a dangerous and sometimes fatal procedure. This plan is a gross exploitation of women for speculative research," said Fr. Berg.

Kathleen Gallagher, director of pro-life activities for the New York State Catholic Conference, told the decision would "facilitate the exploitation of low-income women by using taxpayer funds to pay for the retrieval of eggs."

"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, "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.

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