Spain: hands off girls' eggs. Feminists against university recruitment

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The Spanish feminist association Raplicas throw one countryside against the advertising of egg "donation" displayed in universities with the aim of recruiting as many young women as possible (to join the campaign click here). The oocytes are scarce and precious material, much sought after both for heterologous assisted fertilization and for research.

The Spanish law of 2006 on Human Assisted Reproduction Techniques prohibits”advertisements or campaigns that encourage the donation of human cells and tissues... in exchange for a profit or economic advantage. To get around it, as usual, it's enough playing with words: Spain allows the "donation" of eggs only if “altruistic” and anonymous, but allows a "compensation" (around 1000 euros per withdrawal).

According to Vincenzo Pavone, who directs the Institute of Public Policies of the National Research Council (CSIC) "there are elements to believe that the “donors” undergo the procedure over and over again. The lack of registration allows you to undergo numerous withdrawals without supervision. As is evident, if there were a register of "donors" the practice would become impossible and the number of available oocytes would be reduced, as well as the volume of business". Business that generates more than 600 million euros a year in Spain (for more, see here). Considering that the minimum wage in that country is 950 euros, the sale of eggs can be a significant income opportunity for a student.

A third of the eggs collected are exported. Spain has become the breadbasket of Europe for the assisted reproduction business (see here). A large portion of oocytes is instead used in research on cloning and stem cells.

The hidden egg industry

As is known - but perhaps not enough - Ovarian stimulation to induce hyperproduction of oocytes involves numerous short- and long-term health risks: vision problems, nausea, dizziness, ovarian cysts, irreversible damage to the ovaries up to infertility, early menopause and breast tumors. Recent studies have shown that between 0.3 and 10 percent of women undergoing treatment experience risk ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Furthermore, there are more and more studies that testify to this a "statistically significant" greater risk for those born from assisted reproduction of developing numerous pathologies, including oncological pathologies (see here).

We Italians are among the largest buyers of Spanish eggs (Italian women can only donate their eggs, and do not do so: for this reason, the introduction of a "compensation" is periodically proposed, see here). 92 percent of the eggs used for assisted reproduction are "extracted" from Spanish girls (the rest comes almost exclusively from Greece). In the very recent report to Parliament on the application of law 40 (data relating to 2018) there is a increase in the number of girls born through assisted reproduction, but only for techniques that involve cycles of freezing and thawing of embryos and that use heterologous fertilization.

As Assuntina Morresi explains on Future, 14,139 children were born from the 77,509 couples treated in 2018, 3.2 percent of the total. The current strategy is “fertilize the maximum possible number of oocytes produced by a cycle of treatments and transfer the minimum number of embryos into the uterus (preferably one), freezing the remaining ones and leaving them for any subsequent transfers (…) They are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of human lives suspended in liquid nitrogen around the world (…) In Italy in 2018, 98,673 embryos were formed and 43,946 were cryopreserved. And if it is true that the success rate of thawing pregnancies appears higher than those obtained with fresh techniques, We do not know what effects embryonic freezing and thawing have on the health of those born from ART. Women mostly resort to heterology: there are 5,160 couples in which oocytes are sought and 1,187 those in which the requested gametes are male. The average age of women who access Pma is 36.7 years, but increases to 41.6 when it comes to heterologous women with procured oocytes, while it is lower – 34.8 years – if the seed is external to the couple. A data consistent with the hypothesis that women who resort to this technique do so due to physiological infertility, i.e. due to age, rather than pathological situations. Morresi continues: “One thing is clear from the reportyield of increase in import-export in general, with a +40 percent for that of oocytes, compared to the previous year".

Hands off Spanish girls!

Marina Terragni

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