Jerry Brown's egg donor veto draws fire from measure's author

Published: Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 - 8:34 am

Gov. Jerry Brown's veto of a bill allowing women to sell their eggs for medical research drew a sharp response Wednesday from the measure's author, who said she was "disturbed" by the Democratic governor's tone.

Brown wrote Tuesday evening that "not everything in life is for sale nor should it be," before going on to say genuine informed consent for the egg harvesting procedure is difficult to ascertain since there is not adequate knowledge of long-term risks.

Assembly Bill 926 was opposed by anti-abortion groups that argued eggs should be treated like organs and should not be sold.

Proponents said an existing law prohibiting women from selling their oocytes, or eggs, to science has stymied fertility research in California.

"The questions raised here are not simple; they touch matters that are both personal and philosophical," Brown wrote. "… I do not find sufficient reason to change course."

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, said she found Brown's reasoning "regressive" and that women's groups will object that he underestimates the ability of young women to make their own medical decisions.

"I think there is a groundswell of concern when looking at the veto statement," Bonilla said. "It takes an extremely conservative stance around issues of disclosure and whether women can adequately assess their own risks and sign disclosures for themselves."

Bonilla said she was up until 1 a.m. Wednesday morning drafting a response to Brown's message for media outlets. On Wednesday afternoon, she continued to advocate for the now-dead legislation.

Bill supporters said AB 926 would spur research to help young women diagnosed with cancer by studying the impact of cancer-fighting drugs on fertility and improving embryo preservation methods.

"That's the most disappointing part of the veto," Bonilla said. "People sometimes get distracted by argumentation or ideology. Really, it boils down to a decision particularly young women are facing when they get a cancer diagnosis."

Current research has been stalled since the 2006 law was enacted barring payments for eggs donated to science. Few women voluntarily go through the invasive and time-consuming procedure without compensation, leading to a shortage of eggs for research.

However, opponents argued that the risk of exploiting poor women was too great a concern.

A 2010 documentary film, "Eggsploitation," focused on the stories of young women who feel they were exploited by the fertility industry, including some who developed serious complications. Those women were donating to help others conceive, a process that does allow them to be compensated.

"I'm sure it's not the end of it," said Diane Tober, associate executive director for the Center for Genetics and Society, which opposed the legislation.

"At least we have the right decision for now."

Call Melody Gutierrez, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5521. Follow her on Twitter @melodygutierrez. The Bee's David Siders contributed to this report.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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