Feminists Join Pro-Lifers Warning of Cloning Exploiting Women

National   |   Rebecca Taylor   |   Dec 6, 2011   |   11:46AM   |   Washington, DC

There is a dirty little secret behind cloning to obtain stem cells that no supporter ever wants to talk about.  If they do even acknowledge the secret it is quickly dismissed as a non-issue.

In reality, this secret is a rallying cry against cloning research for BOTH sides of the embryonic stem cell debates.  Which is probably exactly why supporters of therapeutic cloning (cloning to produce stem cells) refuse to bring it to light.

The secret is this: somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT,) better known as cloning, requires an enormous amount of eggs.  Human eggs, retrieved from young human females.  Your niece, your daughter, your granddaughter. And the procedure to get these eggs necessary for cloning is no walk in the park.

To retrieve the enormous amount of eggs needed for SCNT, many women have to undergo a difficult and dangerous procedure.  First they are injected with drugs that stimulate their ovaries to produce multiple eggs.  This is called ovarian hyperstimulation.  The women then undergo surgery to retrieve the eggs produced.  Depending on which drugs are used, as many as 10% of women will experience ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), a serious complication that includes enlargement of the ovaries and can cause permanent infertility and even death.  OHSS may also cause blood clotting disorders and kidney damage.  Women who have undergone ovarian hyperstimulation may have increased risk of ovarian cancer. The horror stories of the medical problems experienced by women who donated their eggs are numerous. (Three are documented in the following video from the film Eggsploitation.)

So support for cloning research is a de facto support for putting young women’s health and lives at risk.  This is the reality that supporters of cloning for stem cells don’t want you to know about.

But some feminists are speaking out.  They realize that simply pursing this research puts vulnerable women at risk and if it is successful it will create an even more intense market for human eggs.  Three “pro-choice” feminists have written a letter to the editors of Nature in response to an article on cloning research.  Here is the letter in its entirety:

The demand for women’s eggs for research could soar alarmingly following news of a cloning technique that uses human oocytes to reprogram somatic cells to a state of pluripotency (S. Noggle et al. Nature 478, 70–75; 2011).

The mean number of eggs given by each woman during the study was 16.9, with one donating 26 eggs. This is more than many fertility doctors would consider optimal and increases the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. The researchers do not say that they halted hormone treatment in cases of over-response, although they did stop it in under-responsive women.

Noggle et al. rightly anticipated concerns that payment for eggs could encourage financially disadvantaged women to take risks they might otherwise avoid. But US$8,000, the amount paid by Noggle and colleagues, would be a temptation even to the well-off in these difficult economic times.

Some argue that women should evaluate for themselves the risks and benefits of providing eggs for research. But informed consent depends on provision of accurate information. Even after years of egg harvesting for fertility treatment, the risks to women — especially from some of the drugs and hormones used — remain undercharacterized and poorly assessed, with inadequate follow-up and data collection.

Marcy Darnovsky, Center for Genetics and Society, Berkeley, California, USA.
Susan Berke Fogel, Pro-Choice Alliance for Responsible Research, Van Nuys, California, USA.
Judy Norsigian, Our Bodies Ourselves, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

LifeNews.com Note: Rebecca Taylor is a clinical laboratory specialist in molecular biology, and a practicing pro-life Catholic who writes at the bioethics blog Mary Meets Dolly. She has been writing and speaking about Catholicism and biotechnology for five years and has been interviewed on EWTN radio on topics from stem cell research and cloning to voting pro-life. Taylor has a B.S. in Biochemistry from University of San Francisco with a national certification in clinical Molecular Biology MB (ASCP).