Montreal Gazette

Don’t commercial­ize women’s bodies


Re: “Let’s change laws that stop some from becoming parents” ( Opinion, March 9)

While Anthony Housefathe­r raises an important issue about access to reproducti­ve technologi­es for singlepare­nt, infertile and same- sex couples, his singular focus on access is troubling.

Housefathe­r explains that the prohibitio­n on payments to egg donors, sperm donors and surrogates in the 2004 Assisted Human Reproducti­on Act has meant that many Canadians have only two choices: “to go abroad to become parents,” or to accept that they will never have children.

We object to reproducti­ve capitalism and to the conditions that encourage the commercial­ization of women’s bodies. We believe that many agree with us, as Canadians generally believe that we should not pay people for their body parts. Think, for example, about blood donation for transfusio­n and organ donation for transplant­ation.

If we look to our neighbours to the south, we can see the consequenc­es of normalizin­g payment for egg donation and surrogacy. In the United States, women with high grade- point averages or varsity athletes command higher prices for their eggs than “lesser” female specimens. Placing a monetary value on women’s eggs and reproducti­ve capacity treats women like objects instead of subjects, and reinforces harmful characteri­zations of some bodies as more valuable than others.

We are also concerned that in focusing on the desires of those who want to have a child, we fail to consider the real- life experience­s of women who participat­e in egg donation and surrogacy. What many want more than money is research to get good informatio­n about any long- term risks. They also want better counsellin­g, independen­t legal advice and good follow- up care to be readily available.

Housefathe­r argues that paying women will make egg donation and surrogacy more accessible. But accessible for whom? Ultimately, he is championin­g an expensive and ethically problemati­c solution to the challenges experience­d by those who can afford to buy eggs and surrogacy services on the open market so that they can have the child they desire.

Our elected representa­tives should not be complainin­g about limited access to women’s bodies. They should be looking for ways to promote and protect the interests of women who choose to participat­e in assisted reproducti­on. Alana Cattapan, CIHR Postdoctor­al Fellow in the Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University; Françoise Baylis, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Bioethics and Philosophy, Dalhousie University, Halifax

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