Spanish women are having fewer and fewer children, and yet the country has become the egg donation capital of Europe. In this episode of The Conversation Weekly podcast, we find out about the experiences of women who decide to donate their eggs, and whether there are enough protections in place to prevent them from being exploited.
Over the past 20 years, the number of egg donation cycles in Europe has been steadily increasing, reaching more than 80,000 in 2018. Around half of these take place in Spain, which has positioned itself as Europe’s go-to destination for people seeking donated eggs.
According to Anna Molas, a research fellow in anthropology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain currently has “the most flexible assisted reproductive law across Europe”. There is no age-limit for women who want to use private clinics, and no access restrictions in terms of marital status or sexual orientation.
An egg donation industry has developed in Spain to feed the demand for donor eggs, much of which is driven by women over the age of 40 who need help to have a baby. Adverts on social media encouraging women to donate their eggs are common. Around 15,000 women go through egg donation cycles every year in Spain.
When Molas interviewed women in Spain about their experiences, she found that the main reason they chose to donate was economic. A donor typically receives €1,100 (US$1,150) for an egg donation cycle, and the amount of compensation increases each time they donate.
“Even if it is a low amount of money for all the process that it involves, it still appeals to a lot of women,” says Molas. However, under Spanish law, donors are considered to be motivated by altruism. “The fact that they are treated as donors, as volunteers, makes it very difficult to have a discussion about how much they should be paid,” she says.
Listen to the full interview on The Conversation Weekly podcast, and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. You can also read an article Anna Molas wrote about her research, which is part of Women’s Health Matters – a series about the health and wellbeing of women and girls around the world.
This episode was produced and written by Katie Flood with assistance from Mend Mariwany. Eloise Stevens does our sound design, and our theme music is by Neeta Sarl. Gemma Ware is the executive producer of The Conversation Weekly.
Anna Molas receives funding from the Independent Social Research Foundation (ISRF).