Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Older Women, Very Young Babies

This is an interesting post from Jezebel in which they discuss Lisa Belkin's response to critics of Maria del Carmen Bousada the woman who recently birth at 67 and recently died (not from birth, from cancer). On the NPR show The Takeaway Bellkin talked to a woman who gave birth in her early 50s with her second husband; she had older kids, he had no biological children. Jezebel quotes a commenter on the blog post (which doesn't say much):

"I think that if women gain the ability to bear children in their later years (thus truly retaining youth and vitality), society in general will find it much harder to brush older women off as irrelevant and unneeded. Older males will have fewer excuses for sniffing around skirts of women half their age, and will no longer be seen as logical opportunities, but rather selfish perverts. If women can still have babies in their 50s and 60s as men do, we'll have taken a giant step toward closing one of the most significant gender gaps that exists. True equality is the real fear."

Now, why isn't anyone saying the painfully obvious? Women gain the ability to give birth when they're older only through eggs from younger women AKA "donor eggs." I don't want to comment on anyone's decision to pursue donor eggs, I want to note Jezebel's refusal to mention the apparently unmentionable fact of them. The magic of science can extend a woman's fertility past menopause only through a third party. And let's be clear: Third party eggs, donor eggs, they are not "donated." They are cultivated and collected through an involved, expensive and uncomfortable sequence of medication and surgery, each stage accompanied by its own potentially significant risks. For all the shots and the surgery women go through to produce a batch of donated eggs they're not just given a pat on the back, they're given money. Sometimes quite a lot of it. Which means there's room for exploitation.

There's a lot to consider when it comes to deciding to become an older parent--no matter how you do it. (I'd note that studies have shown the sperm of men over 53 carries it own risks as well.) But allowing yourself to ignore the fundamental elements of fertility -- egg and sperm make baby -- in favor of a theory of potential equality between men and women that involves the payment of women for their bodily products is not a good use of anyone's time. Unless, maybe, you're Margaret Atwood.

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