Advocacy group appeals rejection of egg harvesting suit - Catholic Courier

Advocacy group appeals rejection of egg harvesting suit

Despite the recent rejection of its year-old lawsuit, a state advocacy group is continuing its fight to prevent publicly financed egg harvesting that would lead to the creation of cloned embryos for research.

The suit, Feminists Choosing Life of New York (FCLNY) v. Empire State Stem Cell Board, was rejected in mid-August by Roger D. McDonough, acting state Supreme Court justice. However, within days FCLNY began the process of filing an appeal in the state’s Appellate Division Third Department, according to Jean Baric, an FCLNY advisory-board member.

FCLNY originally filed its suit in October 2009, opposing the state stem-cell board’s action in June 2009 to authorize the purchase of young women’s eggs for as much as $10,000 in taxpayer funds per egg donation. Baric noted that the suit was ultimately denied on the court’s conclusion that the eggs-for-pay program can’t be challenged until a woman is injured and files her own lawsuit. However, Baric said, "We think it is silly to wait until a woman suffers a negative consequence from this program before this lawsuit can be brought."

FCLNY contends that the program would unfairly target young women, lured by the promise of a big payday and not made aware of health hazards that can result from the egg-retrieval process — stroke, pulmonary embolism, kidney damage, clotting disorder, cancer, ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome, ovarian twisting, damage to future reproductive ability and even death.

Baric added that the donors could become victims of a wildly unregulated industry with no federal guidelines or adequate research on the aftereffects of egg donation.

"It’s known as the Wild West of medicine," she remarked.

Though many states allow egg donation so that an infertile woman can have a baby of her own, New York is the first to approve the use of taxpayer money for research on embryos. Jann Armantrout, diocesan life-issues coordinator, further noted that no other country in the world permits this type of arrangement.

"We’re very pleased that Feminists Choosing Life are pursuing the dignity, well-being and health of women by pursuing their complaint," Armantrout said. "I’m prayerfully hopeful that as judges review the case and realize that if the purchase of women’s eggs is allowed to go forward, and that New York would be the only state in the only country in the world to use taxpayer money to purchase the eggs, the judges will find merit in the complaint."

Armantrout added that chances of a successful appeal have been bolstered by the recent addition of Kevin Doyle, former director of the state’s Capital Defender Office, to FCLNY’s legal team.

The state stem-cell board is responsible for administering $600 million in funding that was earmarked in 2007 by the state Legislature for stem-cell research. Baric said that payment for eggs has likely not yet begun due to the lengthy application process, and is hoping FCLNY’s appeal will prove successful before any money changes hands.

"New York state has gone over an ethical barrier," said Baric, a parishioner of St. Louis in Pittsford. "We feel like we’re taking a stand for the whole country, to stop this in its tracks."

A new documentary, "Eggsploitation," also raises moral and ethical concerns related to egg harvesting. The independent film, released in August, centers on interviews with three young, highly educated women in California who claim they sold their eggs to infertility clinics and nearly died as a result — either due to high doses of fertility drugs necessary to produce numerous eggs or from egg-retrieval surgery, or both.

Armantrout lauded "Eggsploitation," saying that whether eggs are donated for the purpose of creating babies or for conducting research on embryos, both circumstances involve women risking their health for cash and thus deserve serious scrutiny. She added that the Catholic Church opposes both practices.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Catholic Courier‘s annual October Respect Life issue will contain an in-depth article on the issue of egg harvesting.

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