New York will pay women to donate their eggs for stem-cell research - Catholic Courier

New York will pay women to donate their eggs for stem-cell research

A plan that allows state funds to be paid to women who allow their eggs to be extracted for research purposes was approved June 11 by the Empire State Stem Cell Board, which oversees $600 million in New York taxpayer funds earmarked for stem-cell research.

The New York State Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s bishops in public-policy matters, was quick to voice its opposition to the measure in a statement from Kathleen Gallagher, the conference’s director of pro-life activities.

“This is a grossly unethical, dangerous and exploitative move that treats women’s body parts as commodities,” Gallagher said.

New York is the only state in the nation thus far to decide to pay women for their eggs, she added.

The stem-cell board approved payments of up to $10,000 for each retrieval, which Gallagher said surely will be tempting for low-income women who are struggling to support themselves and their families. Yet she noted that the retrieval process can be painful and has been linked to health risks and loss of fertility.

“In this economy people are desperate,” Gallagher said. “Vulnerable women should not be coerced into risking their health and their lives for speculative science with speculative benefits.”

Father Thomas Berg, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York who is executive director of the Catholic think tank Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person, agreed that the plan will be most exploitative of low-income women. A member of the stem-cell board’s Ethics Committee, Father Berg voiced his opposition to the plan during the June 11 meeting but was outvoted.

“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,” Father Berg said in a statement.

Researchers want access to larger quantities of eggs so they can create more human embryos for research purposes, Gallagher told the Catholic Courier June 12, but adult stem cells have thus far shown much more promise for medical uses than have embryonic stem cells.

“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,” Father Berg said.

Eggs, the life-giving cells of a woman’s body, were discussed like commodities during the stem-cell board’s June 11 meeting, said Gallagher, who watched a Webcast of the proceedings.

“It was almost surreal. It really was mind-boggling to listen to the conversation at the board meeting,” she said. “I think the only thing that could stop this is the passage of a law that prohibits payment for eggs. We (the Catholic conference) have already drafted such a bill.”

Gallagher has been meeting with state legislators to garner support for the bill. Especially in light of recent chaos in the state Senate due to a coup staged by Republicans on June 8, she said she doesn’t expect the Senate or Assembly to act on the bill before the legislative session’s scheduled end on June 22. However, she said the Catholic conference definitely will promote its bill in the next legislative session.

“Payments to women for the extraction of their eggs crosses an ethical line that New Yorkers should not be forced to finance,” Gallagher said. “Regardless of one’s position on embryonic stem-cell research, we can all agree that women should not be exploited by researchers, with state approval. The Legislature should step in now to ban payments for eggs.”

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