September 16, 2019

LEE | Stop Advertising Egg Donation to ‘Smart Asian Women’

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As I casually scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed last month, a particular ad caught my eye. It seemed like one of those SAT test prep ads with a 20-something year-old Asian female holding books and gazing at the camera with a look of promise. It wasn’t until I read the name of the agency and the cheerful caption, “Make up to $10,000 and help out a family!”, that I realized it was an egg donation advertisement. I quickly scrolled back down my newsfeed, brushing off the thought that this had anything to do with me.

But then again, a similar ad appeared on my Instagram feed just a couple days ago, once again encouraging me to monetize my eggs. That’s when it really struck me — how disturbing it is to see targeted ads that deal with an entity as personal as our reproductive systems. I now expect social media platforms to share my information to advertisers. Yet, I couldn’t help but think how creepy it was to be presented with an egg donation ad as someone who has never attempted nor even considered giving away their eggs. The idea of advertising to sell one’s reproductive cells had never occurred to me until I realized that it was more commonplace than I thought, with egg donor ads running across other campus newspapers.

Egg donation advertisements are especially problematic in how they are delivered. They target college students like myself who would be eager to make a relatively effortless $10,000 (who wouldn’t?) to minimize the costs of the sky-high tuition at this University and the additional costs of living. Donation seekers often search for Asian women in their early to mid-20s who match their ethnicity and are supposedly smart, sometimes specifying that they attend Ivy League institutions. Some agencies even request transcripts or SAT scores to be mailed along with the egg donation application.

Helping an infertile couple achieve their desire to raise a child in a supportive family environment should be something to be celebrated. But when the recipient requests a particular set of physical and ethnic traits, the process becomes a much greater problem. As wealthy recipients provide unlimited monetary compensation to find the perfect match, they are seeking very specific qualities, which is nothing short of promoting eugenics. Those from higher socioeconomic statuses who choose “beautiful and intelligent premier Asian egg donors” not only reinforce racial stereotypes but also essentially create a child processed and refined to their exact standards and based on their coveted characteristics.

In addition to the issue of artificial selection, the way in which the egg donation operation is advertised is also rather bothersome. The emphasis on monetary rewards is especially appealing to those in their 20s who are often most in need of fast cash to pay off student loans as they get by in post-grad life or to support their family. The compensation is also extremely high, with payments usually ranging from $5,000 to $20,000. The social acceptance of egg donation is remarkably baffling since prostitution is condemned and illegal — when both prostitution and egg donation involve the commodification of women’s bodies in one way or another. Not only are egg donations largely better-paying, but it can be completed anonymously, providing a strong incentive to partake in the procedure without giving too much thought.

The philanthropic nature of phrases like “help a family” captivate altruistic audiences with little context on the real risks associated with the procedure. At a quick glance, many of the egg donation agency websites highlight the process, costs and potential resources with little information on probable future risks. While short-term side effects are rare among egg donors, long-term complications involved with the procedure are widely unknown as there have been no major systematized studies on the long-term effects of egg donation.

Next time I run across another one of these ads, I hope the agencies make their services seem like more than just a transaction for helping out a (most likely rich) family seeking to win the lottery by producing a child with their desired ethnic traits and level of intelligence. I don’t need advertisements assessing my anatomy’s monetary worth based on the mere fact that I’m a fertile Asian woman.

DongYeon (Margaret) Lee is a senior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. She can be reached at margaretlee@cornellsun.com. Here, There, Everywhere appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.