In 2022, The Sun published a story about a TikTok user who made $44,000 by donating her eggs. Actually, to her credit, the TikTok user admited she sold her eggs and thus was able to pay off loans, purchase a car, and travel using the profits.
The poster went on to clarify that she is “not these children’s mom” and “will never be their mom” because she has “signed contracts stating that.” She is correct in that she has given up the right to be her genetic children’s legal mother, but what she fails to recognize—like so many other donors—is that she will always and forever be their genetic mother.
As noted by the newspaper, egg donors in the United Kingdom receive up to £750 (approximately $1,000 USD) in reimbursement for the costs associated with donating; they are not paid for the actual donation. This is in line with most other European countries. But in the United States, egg donors can reportedly earn up to $50,000 per cycle in some cases.
It seems the laissez faire attitude toward egg donation, which is largely unregulated in the United States, invites these superficial posts focusing on short-term gain. Because despite pervasive questions about the long-term risks of donating (including the impact on a donor’s future fertility, the potential for certain types of cancer, and more), egg donation in the United States comes with a significant economic benefit that can overshadow the lifelong implications of being a donor.
And is it any surprise that egg donors boast about their earnings on social media when programs attract potential donors using advertisements that focus on the money they can earn? The Society for Ethics in Egg Donation and Surrogacy (SEEDS) recommends that “[m]onetary arrangements . . . be presented in an appropriate professional manner, not dominating the ad nor in presentation format to call undue attention over other elements of the ad.” But it does not take long to find donor programs ignoring this ethical standard. Take for instance the Instagram and TikTok egg donor recruitment accounts for Fairfax Egg Bank, which repeatedly emphasize that donors can receive up to $48,000. Other videos promote the idea of being able to “actually afford the things you want” (in this example, a designer handbag) and how donors can “avoid that oppressive budgeting.”
The myopic focus on compensation in egg donation by not only egg donors but the industry itself impacts both donors and their genetic children. Someday people conceived with eggs from social media influencers will take DNA tests and identify their genetic mothers. How will they feel if they learn how much focus was on compensation rather than the human who would result?
When donor conceived people and recipient parents began commenting on Fairfax Egg Bank’s recruitment videos to express concern, many comments were deleted and commenters were blocked. Meanwhile, at least one super sleuth figured out that most comments on prior videos were left by the very same young woman featured in the videos, using multiple personal accounts; and that she is the daughter of the donor egg program director. As more donor conceived people and recipient parents contact Fairfax Egg Bank about its troubling donor recruitment campaign, it will be interesting to see how—and if—the company responds.