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By Robin von Halle

Are your organs, your blood, even your eggs property? If so, should you be taxed on the proceeds when you give that blood or those eggs? Two law school professors say yes.

“It’s a slam dunk. There’s no doubt this is taxable,” Bridget Crawford of the Pace University of Law told Wall Street Journal columnist Arden Dale, who wrote that “the Internal Revenue Service would likely win should it decide to pursue those who don’t pay taxes on the sales of their own body materials,”

Dale also interviews Lisa Milot of the University of Georgia Law School, who wrote in a recent paper that “[the] debate is whether the human body is exclusively a laborer, or if it can also be a factory or a collection of spare parts.”

An imminent change in the law? Probably not. But it’s something to think about. After all, if the biomedical and fertility industries grow too temptingly large for the IRS to ignore, these arguments might turn from theory into law.

If that happens, you can expect the long waiting lines for surrogates and donated eggs to grow even longer as the incentives shrink and fewer women are willing to participate. America is one of a few industrialized nations with liberal fertility laws. Imposing additional taxes could undermine that status to the detriment of everyone involved.

Our donors and surrogates are compensated for their time and medical expenses, not the “product” they’re providing. They are taxed on their income. We don’t believe an additional tax is necessary or fair. For the reality is that one woman’s hope is not another’s property.

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By Robin von Halle

California has passed a new law requiring the state’s fertility industry to post health risk warnings in their egg donation ads. Advertisements must now encourage women to consult with reproductive health care specialists before making any decisions.

Good advice. But it’s misplaced. The legislation does nothing to solve the problems it addresses. Without demanding real reform or offering practical guidance, it may do little more than spook women.

The law says nothing about requiring businesses to follow the donation guidelines written by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. The law doesn’t have any power to enforce good-conduct practices like minimum compensation or mandatory medical insurance for donors and surrogates.

California lawmakers failed to work with the people who know most about the problems and potentials of fertility treatment: the industry itself. ARR has always recognized the need for a strong ethical backbone within our practice. Ours is an industry steeped in trust — but also legal transparency. That’s why ARR established a code of ethics, based off of ASRM guidelines. We guarantee our surrogates and donors fair compensation and comprehensive medical care. It’s why we vet every donor in our database to ensure they’re healthy in mind and body, fully aware of the risks and rewards that come with helping another conceive.

If California were truly interested in protecting women from irresponsible and predatory businesses, it would work with us rather than excluding us from the process. Instead it’s done nothing more than disorient women and turn them off from what is a safe and often richly fulfilling experience.

By Robin von Halle

More and more Americans are choosing overseas gestational surrogates, particularly poor, uneducated Indians. It raises troubling issues that intended parents and the fertility industry need to consider.

The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal recently reported that India’s surrogacy industry has grown by $500 million since the process was legalized in 2002. Supporters claim the process is far cheaper than stateside surrogacies, but after factoring in plane tickets, the exhausting legal hurdles, and travel within India, the cost difference is negligible.

More importantly, as the number of clinics in India multiplies, few seem to have seriously wrestled with the moral consequences of these “baby factories.”

Proponents of Indian surrogacy cite the wages most surrogates earn in their nine months: between $2,000 and $10,000. This is an enormous sum for these women, equivalent to one or even two year’s salary, but how do we feel about paying them far, far less than we would pay a fellow American who experiences the same pains and challenges? What does it say about us when we choose a service where the women are often confined in a clinic for the duration of their pregnancy, where we never see her face or know her name? What does it say about us when the only way we know the human being who we’ve chosen to carry our child is by the thumbprint on her contract—proof of her illiteracy and perhaps her desperation?

All these questions underscore the huge differences between gestational surrogacy as it’s undertaken through the services of a reputable agency in the U.S. and in a country where fail-safes are not necessarily factored into the process.

Our surrogates typically undergo rigorous psychological screening to ensure they can handle the idea of carrying someone else’s child and giving it up to the biological parents at the end of nine months. They must have borne at least one child. They must have a strong family network in place, like husbands or partners, who support their decision to be surrogates. Typically, there is ongoing interaction throughout the pregnancy between the surrogate and parents. And finally, what comes out of the psychological testing, time after time, is this huge differentiator: The money is not the primary motivator. The ability to help others create families is.

Many of us know the feeling, the ache, of wanting a child, and the conviction that we would do anything to hold one of our own. But how far are we willing to go? In a country where colonialism is a not so distant memory, we have to ask. Are the women behind the boom in Indian surrogacies being given a hand up? Or are they being exploited?

Visit our Web site at www.arr1.com.

About Us

Conception Connections is a blog about alternative paths to family creation. It is maintained by Alternative Reproductive Resources. Contributors include intended parents, egg donors and gestational surrogates in addition to ARR staff. Our goal is to facilitate conversations about trends, issues, current events, technology and personal stories surrounding infertility, egg donation and gestational surrogacy. If you'd like to contribute, please e-mail shodge@hodgemediastrategies.com. We also welcome your comments and suggestions. Note: Comments are moderated and posted on approval.

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