This was good news because SB 926 violated a core tenant of Catholic Social Teaching, failing to respect the life and dignity of all human persons and God’s plan for creation. In 2008, at the international congress “A Gift of Life,” Pope Benedict XVI denounced the buying and selling of body parts, stating: “the body can never be considered as a mere object.” Egg trading treats women as a commodity depriving them of their inherent dignity afforded to them by their Creator. SB 926 would have legalized the merchandising of eggs for the purpose of creating nascent human beings for medical research and human cloning. However, as stated in the document “The Dignity of the Person” (Dignitas Personae), an instruction released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “the dignity of a person must be recognized in every human being from conception to natural death… and must be at the center of ethical reflection on biomedical research.”
In a letter explaining his veto Governor Brown stated simply, “Not everything in life is for sale nor should it be.”
Supporters of SB 926 argued for gender equality, claiming that women should also be afforded compensation as men do for the sale of sperm. However, this argument is misapplied, simply because the process and risks are not gender equal. Conversely, the most vulnerable and poor groups of women in our society, enticed by income opportunities for basic living expenses, would be taking the greatest risk.
Jennifer Lahl, President for the Center of Bioethics and Culture, calls this type of egg harvesting a form of human trafficking. It allows the exploitation and power of one over the other, in this case treating the woman as an egg factory. In the 2009 documentary “Lines that Divide,” The Great Stem Cell Debate, Lahl refers to it as a biological colonization, exploitation of the weak by the strong, similar to needing workers for sweat shops and children for pornography.
With the 2004 passing of Proposition 71, which gave California the constitutional right to conduct embryonic stem cell research with a bond allocation of three billion dollars, the need to harvest human eggs has become critical for those who support it. Our Church, of course, does not. Where will researchers go next? Catholics can take notice from SB 926 that there is an inherent relationship between life and dignity and that we must walk together on a parallel path in light of the Gospel message. The failure of SB 926 will not stop researchers from turning to Third World countries for help, placing our global sisters in grave danger. But for right now, the failure of SB 926 was a win. Thank you Governor Brown, for bringing some moral clarity to this process.
Mary Huber is Associate Director of the Office of Pro Life Catholic Ministries for the Diocese of San Bernardino.