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AZ Senate votes to restrict sales of human eggs

AZ Senate votes to restrict sales of human eggs

PHOENIX - State senators voted Tuesday to put restrictions on the sale of human eggs and to require warnings to women - but specifically rejected similar requirements for sperm donations by men.

SB 1306 spells out exactly what a prospective donor must be told, ranging from the effects of the drugs used to stimulate egg production to risks of the surgical procedure for harvesting them. It also requires doctors to tell would-be donors there are possibly other, unstated, risks because the processes of donating "are unstudied and unknown compared to other medical procedures and treatments."

But Sen. Linda Gray, R-Glendale, backed off her original proposal, which would have made it illegal to buy human eggs under any circumstances, limiting compensation solely to medical costs, travel and out-of-pocket expenses.

As approved Tuesday, a women still could seek compensation if the purpose of the donation was to help an infertile couple conceive. But anyone who buys or attempts to buy an egg for any other purpose, like medical research, could wind up in jail for six months.

Even with that change, several legislators said the measure sets up artificial and unnecessary barriers to egg donations.

Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, said if lawmakers want to start dictating what is informed consent, they should include men. For example, she said there is the legal possibility that a donor, who presumes he is anonymous, could end up with the legal obligation to provide support payments to what is his biological child.

That drew a sharp reaction from Gray, who said there was no comparison.

"There's a three-week process of injections or shots that change hormones, really unbalances your life," Gray said. "Further, the woman goes under anesthesia … to be able to extract the eggs for in vitro fertilization, a very serious process in compared to the donation of sperm."

Sen. Rebecca Rios, D-Apache Junction, said there is no evidence women are not told the risks of the procedure. She said the Legislature should butt out.

"We're not doctors," she said.

"This is the epitome of government intrusion into what is a very personal issue in people's lives," Rios continued. "This is an anti-family bill."

Gray's contention that donors don't really understand all the implications is backed by Jennifer Schneider, a Tucson physician.

In an interview, she discussed the death of her daughter, Jessica Grace Wing, of colon cancer at age 31. Schneider said her daughter supplemented her income by selling her eggs for in vitro fertilization three times to help couples conceive.

She questioned whether her daughter's repeated exposure to the drugs might have led to the cancer. Schneider said what she found is that no one knows because there has been no real research.

"Egg donors have never been followed up," she said. "Nobody knows if there are any real risks."

Women do sign statements there are no known long-term risks - the operative word being "known," she said.

Schneider does not believe SB 1306 goes far enough.

First, she said the language of the unknown risks should be spelled out in much clearer fashion, in a way to get the attention of a young woman who is being offered thousands of dollars.

Second, she said the risks should be disclosed early in the process. She said women don't get the consent forms until after they've been screened by "egg brokers" for health, psychological and genetic issues.

"By that time, they have put in a lot of time and effort into the process," Schneider said. "And they've sort of spent the money in their head."

The legislation originally was opposed by the Arizona Medical Association. But lobbyist David Landrith said the concerns were more with the now-removed provision to ban the sale of eggs for any purpose - a ban doctors believed would deny infertile couples the eggs they need.

Separately, the Senate gave preliminary approval Tuesday to another bill to make it a crime to create or attempt to create a human embryo in a laboratory by any means other than fertilization of a human egg by a human sperm. SB 1307 also would make it illegal to attempt to create a human-animal hybrid or to attempt to transfer a human embryo into a non-human womb, or vice versa.

At least part of what's behind both measures is a larger effort by lawmakers to throw roadblocks in the path of any form of cloning research. Earlier this week the Senate voted to put a constitutional ban on cloning. That move, however, is dependent on voter approval in November.

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