There are some in our society who believe that there is an age limit on motherhood. In the future, the opportunity to have a younger woman’s eggs donated, even for a fee, makes it possible for older women to have children and to cherish them and continue to make their lives, regardless of age, meaningful.
There are some people who debate the ethics of egg donations. There are some who believe that “selling eggs” is immoral and against God’s wishes. Let us examine the pro’s and con’s of egg donations. There is, and will continue to be, a wide range of women who cannot conceive- either because they or their husbands are infertile. The future will also see more and more single women (including lesbian couples) who want children without the ability, or inconvenience, of “coupling” with a male partner.
A woman willing to donate eggs is taught “how to inject hormone stimulants into her hip to produce more eggs in her ovaries” (Lauang 2000 12) Then, as Lauang explains (p 12) the eggs are retrieved from donors, mixed with the sperm of the recipient’s partner and then implanted into the recipient’s cervix. The retrieval is a surgical procedure. But it is considered safe. Most programs now pay egg donors $4,000. This is not for the eggs, but for the inconvenience of the surgery and time. If the donors decide not to risk surgery, they still receive $500. Donors have to want to give their eggs. For this reason, explains Lauan, “All donors have to see psychologists before they donate eggs” (p. 13). According to Family Line, which has helped more than 300 couples for eight years, “about 55 percent of their egg recipients have babies”. (p. 13) Egg donors are permitted to donate their eggs up to four times in a lifetime.
Many religions tell us that humans were put on earth to procreate. That is, to have children to keep Mankind alive. To those who believe that there should be an age limit for a woman to bear children, there is no evidence that older parents are unfit. Linda Wolfe’s example, of her 62-year old brother wanting his childless thirty-something wife to have a baby is inspiring. She also explains that “If a child is going to have an older parent, an older mother is a better bet than an older father…The average age of women seeking babies through the new technology is 51. The average age of people entering nursing homes is 85.” (Wolfe 1994 A 15).
The fact that science now makes it possible for older women to have babies should be applauded. Those who criticize, according to Wolfe (p. 2) seem to be blatantly sexist.
The arguments against egg donations for older women is that taking care of a baby at an “advanced” age upsets a sort of ritual to which older people have become accustomed. There is also concern that older people may be unable to take care of babies properly- deprived of regular sleep, having to cope with sickness and unexpected problems with which they are not mentally, emotionally, or physically prepared to cope. These “con” arguments do not take into consideration the needs and stability and ability of older people to care for and raise a baby.
Egg donation is one technology for which I applaud science. It gives the blessing of a baby to couples who have been unable to conceive. We all live longer and remain healthier and competent far longer than ever before. If an older woman, or couple, is willing to give up some of the “comforts” of advancing age, top have and raise a child properly then by all means, society should not forbid them or complain about their decision. It is a personal decision both to donate and receive eggs. I for one would be willing to donate eggs, and if I am childless in my thirties and beyond, I would be willing to take a chance by accepting someone else’s eggs.
Lauang, H.: “Giving the gift of life” San Francisco: The Golden Gate, April 27, 2000
Wolfe, L. “And Baby Makes 3, Even If You’re Gray” New York: New York TIMES, June 4, 1994