the politics of eggs
Thank God Peggy Orenstein is the person telling us about the current state of infertility options. Her piece in the Times yesterday about donor eggs covers a lot of controversy in a totally even-handed and thoughtful way. Having tried it herself, she's well-qualified to talk about the complex emotional responses women have to the process without calling its legitimacy into question.
One observation that that really struck me was the difference between how sperm and egg donation is perceived and packaged. Here's Peggy scanning the potential egg donors at Ova The Rainbow with one of the women she interviewed:
I stood behind her, watching the young women go by. Each was accompanied by an assortment of photos: girls in caps and gowns graduating from high school, sunburned and smiling on family vacations, as preschoolers in princess frocks, sporting supermodel pouts in shopping-mall glamour portraits. Sperm banks rarely provide such visuals, which is just one disparity in the packaging and treatment of male and female donors, according to a study published last month in The American Sociological Review. Egg donors are often thanked with presents and notes by recipients for their generous “gift.” Sperm donors are reminded that they’re doing a “job,” providing a “sample,” and performing an act they’d presumably do anyway — which may be why many men in the study were rattled when told a pregnancy had actually occurred. And although the men could admit they were in it for the cash, ovum donors were expected to express at least a smidge of altruism.
She also talks extensively about different answers to the "when and how to tell" question and errs on the full-disclosure side. This article is really worth reading, and seems especially crucial-- if emotional-- for those trying to decide between an egg donor and adoption. The final sentence is spot on:
“I’m just happy,” she said. Finally, Becky would be a mother, her husband a father, the two of them building a family with all the conflict, joy and unpredictability that entails — regardless of whose genes are involved.
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