Governor Brown Sends Clear Message: Women Are As Incapable of Making Decisions for Themselves as Children and the Mentally Handicapped

Let this be a wake-up call to those who thought the stem cell conversation was handled, to those who thought equality was in the bag and to those who thought California was progressive.
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In a disappointing and shocking decision, Governor Brown vetoed AB 926 (Bonilla): EQUAL TREATMENT FOR RESEARCH SUBJECTS: FAIR COMPENSATION.

Even more disappointing and shocking, are his reasons for doing so, reasons which blatantly ignored facts and science, and likened women to children and the mentally handicapped.

Brown's veto letter opens with: "Not everything in life is for sale, nor should it be."

Human eggs, used in research are NEVER for sale. His opening line is incredibly offensive and ignorant. Governor Brown implies women who receive fair compensation for donating eggs for research are unethically selling themselves. By extension, this implies an Assemblywoman who authored this bill, the Women's Rights and Health Organizations supporting this bill, and the Women's Health Researchers conducting the research on human eggs are all unethical.

On the absolute contrary, leading organizations find it unethical to fail to compensate women participating in egg donor research, a process spanning over 50 hours in one month's time. 47 other states are in agreement, as are leading bioethicists and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine's ethics committee. AB 926 ensures women would be compensated for their time, effort and inconvenience, even if 0 eggs are retrieved.

How dare the Governor lie to the world and suggest this bill does otherwise.

His second line, "This bill would legalize the payment of money in exchange for a woman submitting to invasive procedures to stimulate, extract and harvest eggs for scientific research."

Governor Brown couldn't be more wrong. Women being paid for their time, effort and inconvenience is not submission. In fact, compensating subjects is a practice in research dating back 180 years, a practice never in history, denied to a man, even in very invasive procedures. This is part of the social contract, just like military service, for doing something that will benefit all of society.

He goes on to write, "In medical procedures of this kind, generally informed consent is difficult because the long-term risks are not adequately known."

This statement is the most offensive of all. The only two classifications of people who are deemed incapable of providing their informed consent - irrespective of risks known or unknown - are children and the mentally handicapped. Governor Brown just placed ALL WOMEN into the same category. And he calls himself a democrat?!

Telling people "the long-term risks are unknown," is part of the informed consent process. He would have considered that had he thought about the intense scientific process governed by the National Institutes of Health. But apparently, he feels he alone knows better than NIH.

"After careful review..."

We know for a fact Governor Brown, didn't do a thorough or careful review. He made, as he admitted in his letter, a "personal" and "philosophical" decision, one in which the words science, women's research, advancing medicine, or equality are noticeably absent.

We know he bypassed a careful review because Governor Brown refused to communicate with the internationally recognized and highly-respected bioethicists who reached out to him. We know because he refused to consider women to be fully capable of making decisions about their bodies even when money is on the table; he refused to consider the procedures used in conducting this type of research are done 1.5 million times per year; and he refused to consider the women's health research his veto denies in California.

Lastly, Governor Brown asserts the ban on compensation for time, effort and inconvenience connected to egg donation was unanimously voted on. This is a lie. The ban was a part of a comprehensive stem cell bill (SB 1260 - 2006) that added ample layers of protection for female research subjects due to concern Prop 71 (2004) would open the floodgates of embryo recruitment. In those seven years, the only thing SB 1260's compensation ban clause caused is a virtual prohibition on vital women's health research in California.

That is why the Legislature voted to lift the ban this year. There is no scientific or ethical reason to ban compensation, but allow egg donation to occur for free. Exploitation and abuse are not eliminated by a monetary ban, just as exploitation and abuse are not encouraged by the modest monetary compensation we are advocating for.

Is Governor Brown saying that as a progressive state, and I use the word progressive very loosely under his leadership, we should continue to stymie critical women's health research from being completed?

Governor Brown's veto does just that and he doesn't care. Governor Brown doesn't care there is a research fellow at USC who will have to go to a different state to finish her fellowship, despite the fact that her project will help millions of women; Governor Brown doesn't care that young women diagnosed with cancer are making life and death decisions based on the impact cancer treatment has on their reproductive health; and Governor Brown doesn't care that California and its research universities will lose jobs, grant dollars and scientific prestige to other states.

Let this be a wake-up call to those who thought the stem cell conversation was handled, to those who thought equality was in the bag and to those who thought California was progressive. We are quickly regressing back into the patriarchal society we thought was a thing of the past.

I am, for the second time in the 15 years of living in California, ashamed of this state. The first time was Prop 8, but thankfully that travesty was corrected.

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