Ban on human egg sales quietly spiked in Senate Committee

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 12-Apr-2010

A wave of major anti-abortion proposals seem virtually certain to surge through the Oklahoma Legislature this year.

Several of the measures are explicitly crafted in response to controversial state Supreme Court decisions that found two earlier pro-life bills had violated the “log-rolling” or “single subject” rule for statutory enactments. Three proposals have already made it through both houses and garnered Gov. Brad Henry’s signature last week.

However, one measure from pro-life advocates that did not advance this year was House Bill 3077, sponsored by state Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, an Oklahoma City Democrat.

The proposal’s language was intended to protect “the ovarian health of Oklahoma women, especially university students and low-income women who are disproportionately vulnerable to being monetarily induced to compromise their reproductive and ovarian health.” The bill would have made it unlawful to pay for or sell “one or multiple human oocytes from a woman by hormonal egg follicle stimulation and surgical extraction.”

The measure passed easily in the House of Representatives, but was jerked from consideration in a Senate panel after deployment of a corps of physicians and business leaders who argued against its provisions.

Co-sponsors of Hamilton’s legislation included her House colleagues Mike Reynolds of Oklahoma City, George Faught of Muskogee, John Wright of Broken Arrow, Sally Kern of Oklahoma City, Marian Cooksey of Edmond, Ann Coody of Lawton, Charles Ortega of Altus, Sue Tibbs of Tulsa and Harold Wright of Weatherford.  Sponsor in the state Senate was Brian Crain of Tulsa.

At a press conference last month promoting H.B. 3077, several pro-life spokesmen spoke passionately in support of the bill. In addition to Rep. Hamilton, April Miller of Oklahoma’s Americans United for Life chapter joined Mike Jestes of the Oklahoma Family Policy Council, Richard Klinge of Catholic Charities and Dr. Dominic Pedulla.

Both Hamilton and Miller pointed to an advertisement in The Oklahoma Daily, campus newspaper at the University of Oklahoma, offering to pay $5,000 to $45,000 to a young woman willing to sell her eggs if she has an SAT score above 1100 and a GPA over 3.00. The advertisement was printed on the front page of The Sooner Catholic on March 7, accompanying a detailed presentation of Rep. Hamilton’s position on the issue.

At a March 24 press briefing in the state Capitol, Rep. Hamilton reviewed scientific evidence in scholarly papers from recent years detailing “life-threatening complications” from human egg harvesting. She also reported that bills similar to H.B. 3077 are already enacted in California and Louisiana, in Canada, some European countries and Australia.

Miller shared data from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine that disclose, she said, “complications happen with egg harvesting 30% of the time” — with serious complications 2 percent of the time. Miller stated her organization’s belief that “egg donation is more akin to procedures that carry significant risk like the donation of bone marrow and organs and is not like blood and sperm donation, both very safe procedures.”

Klinge circulated a letter from Catholic Archbishop Eusebius J. Beltran, who said he supported the proposed law as a means of halting “the escalating efforts of our society to treat the human reproductive system as a mere commodity to be sold to the highest bidder.” Echoing Hamilton’s points, Archbishop Beltran stated his belief that the sale of human oocytes “exploits and endangers the women at whom it is targeted.”

Dr. Pedulla stressed that pro-life physicians believe “technology is good when and if it enhances health.” He argued there is no health benefit in the sale of human egg harvesting. He also argued the practice is invasive “and there is always risk in invasive procedures” – and that it is harmful to women, triggering “hyperovulation,” among other things. He asserted “there is no health benefit for those whose eggs are taken.”

Shortly after the press conference, Senate Appropriations Chairman Mike Johnson of Kingfisher decided not to hear H.B. 3077. Senate President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee, asked about Johnson’s decision at his weekly briefing in late March, said, “I haven’t spoken to Senator Johnson about that. I believe, however, that Sen. [Brian] Crain [of Tulsa] is asking for an interim study group to focus on the issue. A question is whether the purpose of all that is to help people have children or to use them for stem cell research. I think more study is the right approach at this time.”