Collaboration and Commodification in Assisted Procreation: Reflections on an Open Market and Anonymous Donation in Human Sperm and Eggs
Mary (Molly) Shanley
Jake Orr

The practices through which American society regulates the transfer of human gametes (eggs and sperm) reflects and shapes our understanding of our relationship to our genetic materials. The ways in which we think about and justify these practices engages important themes of liberal political theory and law: the understanding of individuals as autonomous or defined (at least in part) by relationships that entail dependence and care; the meaning of reproductive
freedom and procreative collaboration; and the extent to which a free market may protect or undercut individual liberty.

Two ethical and policy questions reflect these issues: should persons created with third-party gametes be able to learn the identity of the donor(s), and should the sale of eggs and sperm be prohibited, regulated, or left to the open market? This article contends that society should prohibit both anonymous transfer of and payment for human gametes themselves. Abolition of both anonymity and payment in the practice of gamete transfer is necessary to reflect properly the collaborative nature of assisted procreation. Although political reality may lead society to permit payment of a strictly capped "inconvenience allowance" for undergoing the procedures involved in transferring one's gametes, such payment (while preferable to payment for gametes themselves) inappropriately conceptualizes use of one's body as a commodity.