Catherine Waldby Sociology and Social Policy

Oöcyte Procurement for Stem Cell
Research: Public Subsidy and the
Origins of the Oöcyte Market
Research Background
 Catherine Waldby, Ian Kerridge & Loane Skene,
‘Human Oöcytes for Stem Cell Research:
Donation and Regulation in Australia’. Industry
Partner: Western Sydney IVF. Australian
Research Council Linkage Project  Cooper, Melinda and Waldby, Catherine Clinical
Labour: Tissue donors and Research Subjects in the
Bioeconomy. (Duke University Press,
Public subsidy for research
oöcyte procurement
 Egg sharing pilot program in Newcastle-on-
Tyne, funded by the Medical Research
Council, which gives women who donate
research oöcytes a £1,500 rebate on their IVF
 State of New York, which mandates up to
$10,000 fee for research oöcytes, funded
through public or private research grants.
 Spain – €1,000
Assisted Reproductive Technology and
Animal Reproduction
 Artificial insemination (AI) developed during the 1930s, to
improve the genetic quality of bovine herds - research on
bovine sperm physiology and biochemistry, and on storage
and quality control techniques adapted during the 1970s to
for-profit private human sperm banks.
 ovulation induction was worked out by British and
Australian scientists in sheep during the 1950s, and by the
1970s a repertoire of new techniques for oöcyte maturation
and superovulation, embryo freezing and transfer were
developed to scale up the rate of reproduction.
 The trajectory that produced Dolly and the SCNT technique
in the 1990s. Human adaptation through IVF.
Beginnings of the US Oöcyte market –
social and regulatory context
The US National Organ Transplant Act 1984 classified oöcytes
along with semen and blood, as renewable tissues, and hence
exempted from the act’s prohibition on the sale of solid organs.
 Public research funds for reproductive science were dramatically
reduced during the 1980s under the Regan and Bush
administrations because of the political influence of antiabortion
groups. Pushed Infertility research into the private sector and put
clinics on a for-profit basis.
 Federal government was silent on social regulation, primarily
because of political anxieties over the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme
Court decision.
 A regulatory vacuum
Oöcyte Contracts and Price
 What do oöcyte contracts do, is a sociological
 ‘who is my stranger in the relatively affluent,
acquisitive and divisive societies of the twentieth
century?’ Richard Titmuss The Gift Relationship:
from Human Blood to Social Policy 1970.
 How can human tissues be redistributed
between social actors who remain anonymous to
one another?
Contract and the US legacy
of chattel slavery
 In postbellum America contract was above all a metaphor
for freedom. ... To contract was to incur a duty purely by
choice and establish its terms without the constraints of
status or legal prescription. … As a relation of voluntary
exchange, contract was premised on self-ownership. In
order to surrender rights and accept duties, parties to
contracts had to be sovereigns of themselves, possessive
individuals entitled to their own persons, labor and faculties
 (Amy Stanley 1998 From Bondage to Contract: Wage Labor,
Marriage, and the Market in the Age of Slave Emancipation. 2
- 3).
To summarise
 Ovarian stimulation is a taylorisation of women’s
reproductive biology – transforms it into a process for
production of a reproductive surplus, which can be
transferred between parties.
 Only when it is constituted as a labour process where
money is exchanged for durational effort and creation of a
product has it been historically possible to constitute
oöcytes as a surplus –
 Public funds have to match the comparable price point
struck by private market negotiations - New York program
similar level to Levine’s average and the top of the
permissible recommended level of ASRM

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