Worldwide Eggsploitation: Egg Donation and Exploitation of Young Women Results in Death

Jennifer Lahl

For Immediate Release

San Ramon, CA/July 13, 2012News is just breaking in India about Sushma Pandey, a 17-year-old young woman who died in 2010, two days after her third egg “donation.” Her death is being attributed to the procedures used to extract eggs from healthy, desirable young females like Ms. Pandey. These eggs are often resold to affluent westerners for use in commercial production of their children. Her post-mortem report states she had “one abrasion, four contusions and a blood clot in the head, plus six injection marks” as well as “congestion in the ovaries and uterus.” The possible cause of her death was listed as shock due to multiple injuries.

This most recent exposure of the daily exploitation of females offers yet another wake up call to the truth of the real, repeat, and often lethal harms of invasive egg removal procedures, which masquerade under the lie of donation. These transactions are anything but “donations” as young females — nearly children themselves — all over the world, desperately fall prey to offers of money like those made to Ms. Pandey.

Calls for regulation by physicians in India will do nothing to protect young women who seek to “donate” their eggs because they are in desperate need of money. Regulated exploitation is still exploitation — using young women as egg farms for affluent westerners wanting children.

Dr. Allahbadia, one of the drafters of a new Assisted Reproduction Technology Bill, wants to raise the minimum age for egg donors. But how does being older mitigate for the health risks of egg donation? It doesn’t.

Kathleen Sloan, feminist leader and human rights advocate who serves as a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture (CBC) comments:

“The list of known health dangers to women who provide their eggs is extensive. It includes Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome from the profusion of synthetic hormones and fertility drugs such as Lupron, estrogen (linked to breast and uterine cancers, heart attack, stroke, and blood clots), and progesterone they are injected with; ovarian torsion; and kidney disease — and those are just the short-term risks! How many more women will have to die before India and the United States, the two countries where the out of control fertility industry is allowed to endanger and exploit women unimpeded, take action? No country can claim to respect women’s human rights while simultaneously turning them into commodities subject to life-threatening harms.”

Jennifer Lahl, writer, producer, and director of the award-winning film Eggsploitaiton states,

“What happened to Sushma Pandey is happening to women every day, all over the world. The infertility industry knows the seriousness of the health risks, yet objects to any oversight, to long-term studies, and to regulation, simply because it will compromise their profits.”

For more information, visit

Media Contact: Jennifer Lahl
President, The Center for Bioethics and Culture

Freezers Are For Food

Jennifer Lahl

In the world of commercialized conception, it seems we’ve decided the freezer is a great place to keep eggs, sperm, and “spare” embryos until we need them.  We think they do pretty well in the freezer, but the verdict is still out on what happens over the long haul when you freeze and store human reproductive material and nascent human life.  Commercial conceivers simply assume that because we can freeze and thaw our reproductive cells or progeny, it causes no harm or danger.

And not only can we do it; it has become big business.

Case in point: the new fad of egg freezing. It began with the laudable goal of helping the younger woman who was diagnosed with cancer.  A woman facing cancer treatment is at risk for compromised fertility induced by chemotherapy.  Egg freezing was used to try to preserve and protect her fertility, so that after her cancer treatment was completed and her health was restored, she might still be able to conceive — using in vitro fertilization — her own biological child.  It is also used in veterinary medicine to preserve species, especially endangered species.

But this new egg-freezing industry has popped up more and more as a lifestyle choice.  Maybe, baby later. National Public Radio devoted a segment to this fad titled, “Egg Freezing Puts the Biological Clock on Hold.” They reported, “As more women postpone motherhood into their 30s, even 40s, they’re hitting that age-old constraint: the biological clock.  Now, technology is dangling the possibility that women can stop that clock, at least for a while.”

Even grandparents are getting into (and paying for) the act!  The New York Times heralded, “So Eager for Grandchildren, They’re Paying the Egg-Freezing Clinic”!  The story paints this picture, “The gray-haired entourages, it turns out, are the parents, tagging along to lend support — emotional and often financial — as their daughters turn to the fledgling field of egg freezing to improve their chances of having children later on, when they are ready to start a family.”

But of course, the facts seem to get lost in all the hoopla over a newfangled way to manipulate reproduction.

First, there is the pragmatic reality of the cost of this new experimental service.  I called one egg freezing agency in Southern California, and the woman I spoke with was putting the hard sell on me.  I explained I was only writing an article on this and wasn’t interested in this for myself!  The costs are high – meaning if you are poor, don’t even think about freezing your eggs.  It’s about $7,000 to $12,000 to harvest the eggs, and an additional $4,000 to $5,000 later to transfer the embryos into the woman’s uterus once she’s ready to have a baby.  Then there are the fertility drugs to super ovulate the woman in order to maximize the number of eggs retrieve, adding an additional $2,700.  Plus the annual storage fee of $300 to $600.

Then, there are the medical realities.  Nowhere on any egg freezing sites that I visited did anyone disclose the realities of the risks to women and children related to maternal age and pregnancy.  I’ve written before about the risks of advanced maternal age which heightens the risk of “fetal loss” – meaning age increases the likelihood that she won’t carry the baby to term.

One important study noted this stark conclusion:

There is an increasing risk of fetal loss with increasing maternal age in women aged more than 30 years. Fetal loss is high in women in their late 30s or older, irrespective of reproductive history. This should be taken into consideration in pregnancy planning and counseling.

Shouldn’t a technology that claims to be able to put the biological clock on hold be accountable for disclosing the maternal-child health risks to women?

And this is still experimental science.  Even the sites that show their methods and success rates show that this is a field still learning about the best methods and techniques.  Do women really, if properly informed, want to experiment on their future children?  This graph demonstrates the wide range of “success” depending on the freezing method:

I say freezers are for food, like the Thanksgiving turkey, not for our future progeny.

View “The Human Egg Freezing Project” on YouTube.


Protect Your Fertility

Jennifer Lahl

In my last post, I wrote about women who wait later into life to conceive and find they struggle with what they call “infertility.”  In fact, there is no infertility as a result of aging; rather the biological reality of menopause.  Menopause is a natural and normal event which occurs in a woman’s life, it is not a disease which needs to be treated as most Western medicine does.  Fertility is a natural organic treasure – one that is temporary and unique for each woman.  It can be understood, protected and cared for, just as we try to do for all other aspects of our health and well-being.

The human body is an amazing organism and human reproduction is a finely tuned orchestration of events.  Women would do well to learn more about human reproduction and the sensitive system of fertility so that we can protect and preserve and utilize our fertility and do everything possible to prevent true infertility.  We cannot stop the aging of our bodies and the naturally occurring menopause.  But there is still much we can do to understand and care for the reproductive season of our “fertility” and be sure we can bear children.

It’s a miraculous event that human beings can procreate at all.  While we are not as bad as the koala bear, which has a very low birth rate of typically one baby every other year, human beings aren’t rabbits either.  The female rabbit can produce as many as “800 children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren” in a single mating season!

So, what can you do to protect your fertility?

1.  Do not wait too long if you hope to have children.  Maternal age is a big factor – perhaps the single most important factor – since our fertility dramatically drops as we age.


Maternal age also negatively impacts our ability to carry a baby to term.  This study states, “There is an increasing risk of fetal loss with increasing maternal age in women aged more than 30 years.  Fetal loss is high in women in their late 30s or older, irrespective of reproductive history.” (emphasis added)

Increased maternal age also causes significant risk of maternal morbidity, with the older mother being more at risk for gestational diabetes, having babies born with chromosomal abnormalities like Down’s syndrome, hemorrhage and hypertension.

2.  Know your menstrual cycle and your body.  Understand your fertility the way you understand your food and exercise.  In the best case scenario, a woman has about 5-6 days each month when she is fertile and can achieve pregnancy.  The spread of these few days is dependent not only on when a woman ovulates, but how long sperm can survive and how fast they swim and reach their destination.  This highlights just how finely orchestrated the event of conception is.

3.  Engage in a healthy lifestyle and avoid excess alcohol, smoking and obesity – all have a negative impact on our fertility as does high stress levels.

4.  Avoid contracting sexually transmitted diseases.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that, “Chlamydia and gonorrhea are important preventable causes of infertility.  Untreated, about 10-15% of women with chlamydia will develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).”  They note in 2009, in theUnited States, there were, “1,244,180 chlamydial infections and 301,174 cases of gonorrhea.”  Think about how much these totally preventable diseases negatively impact fertility!  The impact of STDs on fertility is not often shared with young women, particularly by interests (e.g.the media and the sexualization of women) that encourage, support or promote sexual “freedom” and promiscuity for young women.  This is like encouraging girls to smoke because it’s cool and not telling them about the known impacts of smoking upon their short term and long term health.

5.  Avoid being too thin.  Athletes and women with eating disorders are especially  at risk of infertility due to their low body weight and the impact low weight has on amenorrhea – causing a women’s menstruation to stop.

6.  Avoid egg freezing schemes and gimmicks which “promise” you the ability to freeze your eggs so that you can use them later on when you are ready to have a baby.  Egg freezing is expensive and considered experimental.  There are no long-term studies done on the results of the effectiveness of egg freezing and the health of the resulting children and it ignores the serious health risks to older pregnant women.

Human reproduction and specifically, our fertility, really is a gift which needs to be protected and preserved, just as we have learned to protect and preserve the health of our respiratory and muscular systems.  Natural conception, within the normal, timetable of human fertility, is better for the human body, and for the children.  For women who intend to have children, natural conception should be the goal, a goal achieved by understanding and caring for the body and avoiding risk factors including oral contraception.  Oral contraception, like those pills which have been given a Class 1 carcinogen rating by the World Health Organization, might control your fertility for a while, but at the risk of cancers, clots and death.  Why would you take this risk – or any risk – with the precious gift of your fertility?