Our message is simple and clear; it is our call to action.
Biotechnological research and development often affect women more directly than men. In the case of human embryonic cloning, women’s health and safety have already been affected—adversely. Sadly, there have been too many instances of coercion and deception, and violations of informed consent. Left uncontrolled, research demands will place undue burdens on young, poor women. We deserve a biotechnology that is not degrading and destructive to women's health. The ends do not justify these sorts of means.
The recent South Korean cloning scandal—an example of global co-operation between American and Korean researchers— illustrates our concerns only too well. At the heart of the scandal are the abuses suffered by women for the sake of risky, highly speculative, fraudulent research. The effort involved more than 2,200 ova obtained by paying and coercing women, some of whom were in subordinate positions within the research lab. Now, thirty-five Korean women’s groups are seeking compensation on behalf of the nearly 20 percent of the Korean women “donors” who were harmed by the egg extraction procedures. Two women (one in London and one in Dublin) are known to have died recently from complications associated with egg extraction.
In 2004, science-entrepreneurs rushing to research with little regard for women’s health tried to prevent crucial information from reaching the public. During the “Proposition 71” campaign to induce Californians to fund cloning technology, they brought legal action attempting to prevent feminists from telling the state’s voters that the proposed stem cell research program involved human embryo cloning and would require eggs from thousands of women. Eggs, they told the court, represented less than one percent of research being done and that research could proceed using “surplus embryos.”
But the very next year, when talk of a moratorium on egg donation was in the air, one of the very same proponents—a stem cell researcher—told the press that a moratorium on egg donation would have "a chilling effect and be very damaging for the research." Why should women believe anything that researchers with vested interests and conflicts of interest have to say about the risks and benefits of egg extraction? Can women trust the judgment of bioethicists? Not those who consult for biotech companies or otherwise rely on that industry for their information and assessments.
Join women and men from around the globe in the effort to see science and technology move forward in ways that respect women’s health, safety, and lives.
Jennifer Lahl, B.S.N., M.A., National Director, The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network
Josephine Quintavalle, Director, Comment on Reproductive Ethics, UK