Selling a human egg versus selling an abortion

“Putting a Price on a Human Egg” is a Wall Street Journal story about collusion by fertility clinics to limit payments to human egg donors to $10,000 per cycle. There is a discussion that at least in some cases the process may simply transfer infertility from one woman to another: “Leah Campbell, a 32-year-old writer in Anchorage, Alaska, suffered complications following two donor-egg cycles while in her 20s and said she became infertile as a result.” A quick Google search revealed that nobody seems to know the correlation between egg donation and subsequent infertility.

As noted in Real World Divorce, it is straightforward to sell an abortion for $250,000 in lieu of expected child support payments and the link between abortion and subsequent infertility is well-studied (example paper).

The marketing for egg donation seems to be mostly directed at college students. What if, instead of selling eggs, they were to have sex with the men most conveniently available? shows that, in 2007, a full professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts earned about $130,000 per year. Adding 3% annual increases since then gets us to a current salary of $165,000 per year. That’s $3173 in weekly pre-tax income. Feeding that into the Massachusetts Child Support Worksheet yields annual tax-free revenue of $30,368 or $698,464 over a 23-year period plus likely college tuition, day care, and other expenses of roughly $400,000. Thus the professor’s non-abortion cash payments are likely to be $1.1 million.

[Note that, if the professor is married, and his wife chooses to sue him for divorce after finding out about the dalliance with the student, if the student can get her lawsuit filed first and a child support order established, the claims of the wife and children of the marriage will be inferior to the claims of the owner of the out-of-wedlock child. The professor’s income for child support purposes when the wife sues will be figured by subtracting the existing child support order from the “gross weekly income” (fans of arithmetic/accounting will note that the “Other Support Obligations paid” field is an after-tax number being subtracted from a pre-tax gross number, so it is quite possible that the professor’s true after-tax and after-paying child support income is $0 and yet he would be subject to an additional order to pay more child support to a new plaintiff.]

So it would seem that without leaving the campus a student could easily sell an abortion for 25X what she can sell an egg for.

What do readers think? Should the fertility clinics be prohibited from fixing prices? If the answer is “no” and the clinics can fix prices, is $10,000 an acceptable number given the profits available to abortion retailers?


6 thoughts on “Selling a human egg versus selling an abortion

  1. Raising a kid is more than 25X the work of donating an egg.

    The market price for eggs is only $6-7k. Not everyone goes along with the fixing of the upper price limit, but there would be very little practical difference if the limit were abolished.

  2. George, since Philip was talking about selling the abortion for $250k, the woman wouldn’t need to raise the kid. If she were to raise the kid, her expected compensation could be as high as $1.1m or 110x the egg donation cost. Given the USDA average cost to raise a child of about $250k, that nets her somewhere in the range of $500k-700k depending on how you want to account for the college tuition, daycare and other expenses covered.

  3. So why doesn’t this supposedly bright professor just get a vasectomy before engaging with his students? Seems like a no brainer if the world is as fiscally risky regarding sex as you make it out to be. No need to tell the greedy student, and if the world is as you claim it to be professors should have a line of women going around the campus trying to become set for life. Maybe the college world is really that way, but I tend to doubt it.

  4. Great question, Larry. The surveys, including our own, cited in show that Americans in general, even college graduates in the states where child support is the most lucrative, underestimate the potential profits from child support by a factor of 5-10X. (That said, a lot of attorneys interviewed did say that their defendant clients had invested in vasectomies after their first encounter with the the family court system.)

    [And of course, we wouldn’t characterize the student earning a living from child support as “greedy.” Just as a dentist is not “greedy,” the person who has sex with three dentists to obtain the same spending power is not “greedy.” All are examples of Americans pursuing a lawful career.]

  5. didn’t think this was typical behavior of young women until an Administrative Law Judge, Harvard Law School alumna, during our high school kids’ volleyball game back in 2010, said to me that I better hope my then-senior in college doesn’t get anyone pregnant. ALJ was aware that 22 yo was earning good money as software engineer and had taken job offer in Silicon Valley for post-graduation. I replied earnestly, “Yeah, I sure hope he doesn’t as he’s too young to become a father.” She explained how she was trying to give me sincere advice based on a case in Washington State in which a young woman & her parents were suing a software engineer for a significant sum of money in order to raise his child. I thought she was exaggerating until I heard divorce litigators talk about how common this is, in particular with 20-something professional athletes, but to a lesser extent with any high-earning young male. Of course, not everyone behaves this way, but ALJ sure caught my attention.

  6. Suzanne, Larry: I should have added that I don’t think the number of women working via the child support system is significant for comparing prices. In Massachusetts, for example, between 9 and perhaps 18 percent of women age 30-40 are collecting child support (Census May 2014 data). An unknown percentage have sold or will sell abortions (Census doesn’t ask about this commercial activity). Is there a larger or smaller percentage selling eggs? I’m not sure, but regardless of the percentage perhaps they should be paid a market price.

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