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Testimony by Diane Tober, PhD to the California Senate Health Committee re AB 926

June 12, 2013
by Diane Tober

My name is Diane Tober. I am Associate Executive Director of the Center for Genetics and Society. I am  a medical anthropologist with over 20 years experience conducting research on topics related to infertility and reproductive technologies. I did much of this work while employed at UCSF on NIH-funded projects on infertility-- first as a graduate student researcher and later as Faculty researcher (1989-2002)--as well as post-doctoral research funded by the Social Science Research Council.

It is unethical to proceed with a bill that encourages young women to risk their health by providing eggs.  An ethical bill must include a plan for a registry, call for further study, and include a plan to care for women who experience complications.

Women have been donating eggs for over 20 years, yet there have been no studies on the impact of egg harvesting on healthy donors. However, substantial evidence points to too many cases like those of Dr.Schneider’s daughter and Dr. Wei.

AB 926 eliminates the protection against undue inducement to donate eggs established by SB 1260 – passed nearly unanimously a few years ago. It also violates National Academy of science guidelines, which were established for the same reasons.

There are other concerns as well:

  • First, safety: Young donors are more sensitive to the drugs than are older infertile women. All egg providers should be registered and tracked for health outcomes.
  • Second, AB926 proposes to promote equity for women as research subjects, by permitting payment. But since the proposed research is only on the eggs, not on women’s interactions with the drugs and procedures, egg providers are not truly research subjects, such as in clinical trials. As the 2007 Institute of Medicine publication acknowledges: “One of the most striking facts…is just how little is known for sure about the long-term health outcomes for the women who undergo the procedures.” Yet, this bill proposes to expand the market for human egg providers. All egg providers – for infertility treatment and research – deserve equal protection.
  • Third, exploitation of women: Young women providing eggs for infertile women are often students with qualities considered desirable by the infertile couple. Women providing research eggs would likely be less educated, low income, and disproportionately of color. Economic hardship constrains choices: women might sell their eggs to buy food for their children or pay rent.
  • Finally, fiscal responsibility: Who will pay medical expenses if egg providers suffer complications? Poor or uninsured women would experience greater hardship.

I understand the traumatic experiences of cancer patients facing future infertility. Egg freezing before chemotherapy would preserve a woman’s fertility without putting young, healthy women at risk for getting cancer themselves.

We have seen the adverse health effects of experimental hormone use. DES, was used to prevent miscarriages for decades before it was found to cause cancer. It took decades before research revealed that Hormone Replacement Therapies led to significant cancer increases.

It is irresponsible to move forward with a bill that puts even more women at risk. Real research is needed to prove egg harvesting is safe. AB 926 should require a registry and tracking. Without it, meaningful informed consent and health equity do not exist. I ask that you please oppose this bill unless amended.


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