The Price of Eggs


What would you say is the price of eggs today?  You can get organic, all-natural eggs for $4.85 a dozen.  And then there is the cage-free, vegetarian variety, for $3.77.  And, on sale, I’ve found the humble store brand for 99 cents a dozen. There are sales of other kinds of eggs as well.  I’m talking about human eggs.

These are the eggs used in helping an infertile couple to have a baby.  Some women are infertile because of blocked Fallopian tubes, their eggs resist fertilization, or, sadly, because of the woman’s age. (Female fertility starts going down at age 35.) A couple may decide to try and create a test tube baby by using the husband’s sperm and donated eggs.

So where does a couple find a willing donor?  That all depends on the couples’ preferences and pocketbook. Many IVF clinics have a book of donors, with information about the woman’s health, age, family medical history, and so forth.  Some agencies specialize in egg donors, even setting up clinics near airports to fly in women from around the world.

But, just because the eggs are “donated,” they aren’t free. Many clinics charge thousands of dollars for the eggs, and pass on part of the “payment” to the egg donor, because the process is grueling. She has to undergo a series of daily hormone shots, to encourage her body to produce lots of eggs at the right time.  The eggs are extracted surgically, which has its own risks.  The woman also faces long-term risks, such as stroke, kidney damage, debilitating pain, and loss of her future fertility.

The cost can range from $3,000 to as much as $100,000 offered for eggs from an Ivy League, good looking, smart, athletic young woman.  So just what is the infertile couple buying?  Not just a chance to have a child, but a particular kind of child.  One who would look like her parents.  One who is worth the price tag.

Let me be clear.  I am not ignoring the emotional and spiritual wreckage that infertility can cause, or the desperation of an infertile couple.  But I am raising concerns about how culture views children created by IVF.  If having a child was the goal, then any egg should be acceptable.  But we are experts at planning, controlling, desiring, and deciding.  Children, no matter how desperately they are desired, can become more of a project than a gift. 

As Christians, we know that God looks compassionately upon the barren woman.  And we know that children are a gift to be received with open arms, not a product to be selected with care. 
Buying eggs is not the solution.

So, the next time you’re at the grocery store shopping for eggs, think about the infertile women who “need” the other kind, and the egg donors who are physically hurt because they “donated.”  It’s not the right way to go.


Everyday Bioethics Audio Commentary Album Art