Women’s health issue linked to cloning
JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri Baptist leaders are pleased that the debate about a constitutional amendment promoting embryonic stem cell research, or cloning, has been expanded to include the ethical question of exploitation of women through the harvesting of their eggs.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently did an in-depth article on the ethics and health risks involved with egg donation. While it is not the main focus of Amendment 2 in the Nov. 7 election, provisions within the amendment appear to be murky enough to create the very real possibility that exploitation of women upon passage of the cloning initiative will occur.
“This is just another facet or ramification of what stem cell research means to the community at large, being a health issue,” said Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) President Ralph Sawyer. “It puts women at risk, especially minorities or those that may not have other ways out of their poverty situation.”
Cindy Province, co-founder of the St. Louis Center for Bioethics and Culture and a member of MBC Executive Board, emphasized that the Post-Dispatch was likely acknowledging the validity of the women’s health concern question by publishing the article.
“I think it’s very good that everyone examines this issue from all points of view,” Province said. “There are many aspects to this issue, and one of them that should be of concern to everyone is the potential for exploitation and harm to women.”
Donn Rubin of the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures called the exploitation issue “concocted” and “a distraction from what voters will actually be voting on in November.” His comments offended Province.
“I think that’s an insult to women, quite frankly,” she said. “I think that women have very legitimate concerns about being exploited for their eggs. Make no mistake, this issue is about money. It’s about lots and lots of money.”
Southern Baptist women like Province and Bev Ehlen, field director for Missourians Against Human Cloning (MAHC), have pointed out that some feminists are aligning themselves with anti-cloning social conservatives on the Missouri embryonic stem cell initiative because of the egg extraction issue. Supporters of the initiative say social conservatives are merely “exaggerating feminist concerns,” the Post-Dispatch reported.
“That’s almost funny,” Province said. “We, as Southern Baptists, aren’t really known for exaggerating feminist concerns, but I have to say that I think all we’re doing is just calling attention to a very real concern, which is the fact that pro-cloners are going to need hundreds of thousands, or millions, of human eggs, and we have to understand where they’re going to come from.”
Province, a nurse, said the eggs are likely to come from college-age women or poor women who may be exploited by the promise of financial gain while not knowing all of the risks involved with the procedure.
“Any parent would be concerned if their college-age daughter signed up to go have her eggs harvested for a large amount of cash without your knowledge, undergoing intense medication regimen, the risks of which are not fully known, and then a surgical procedure, all without your knowledge,” she said.
Ovarian stimulation is part of egg harvesting. Up to 35 percent of women who submit to this practice experience health consequences, some as serious as stroke, infertility, organ failure and even death, according to a MAHC pamphlet detailing 10 facts about stem cells and human cloning.