Wanted: eggs. For sale: sperm.
Fertility experts are criticising the low compensation given to egg donors, arguing that it forced hundreds of Danish women last year to look abroad for fertility treatments.
But while the extreme shortage of eggs is sending women to Spain, the Czech Republic and the USA, Denmark’s liberal policies toward sperm donation has led to an abundant supply that enticed about 6,700 foreign women to Denmark in the same year.
Egg and sperm donors receive 500 kroner for making a donation, a sum that professor Peter Humaidan, head of the fertility department at Odense University Hospital, argues is far too little for women.
“It almost mocks egg donors as there is far more discomfort in donating eggs than sperm,” Humaidan told Jyllands-Posten newspaper.
The low level of compensation for eggs is both so that women are not encouraged to donate eggs for mere economic gain and also to prevent eggs from becoming commodified.
Egg donors are eligible for extra compensation for lost earnings and travel expenses, but with only about 200 women donating eggs a year, Humaidan argues that better incentives are needed.
“The legislation is hypocritical because by sending childless Danish women out to buy eggs in countries where women are able to donate for economic gains, we are simply exporting the problem abroad,” he told Jyllands-Posten.
Parliament's ethics advisory panel, Det Etiske Råd, acknowledged that adjustments needed to be made to the compensation model for egg donors, but chairman Jacob Birkler did not support a full commercialisation of the trade in eggs and sperm.
“We need to maintain the Danish tradition that there is no economic incentive for donating egg, sperm, blood or organs,” Birkler said.
The Danish system is very different to Spain’s, where women can receive about 7,000 kroner for a donated egg.
Denmark’s stricter rules on egg donation stand in contrast to its liberal regulations on sperm donation that still allow fully anonymous donations unlike many of its European neighbours.
As a result, sperm is readily available in Denmark and is exported to over 70 countries around the world, as well as to fertility tourists who travel to Denmark for treatment.
“Heterosexual couples from all over the world, though especially from Scandinavia, as well as foreign single and gay women travel to Denmark because of the liberal rules,” Krain Erb, head of Odense University Hospital's fertility clinic, told Jyllands-Posten.
The government is considering regulations in order to encourage more donations. A law that is currently being prepared would allow women to donate eggs to women they know, or to a pool that a childless woman can select from.