JoLana Talbot donated eggs anonymously because she was not offered any other option. One thing we’ve learned since starting We Are Egg Donors is that this is a pretty common experience. What is uncommon about JoLana’s story is that she got the chance to connect with her ‘donor daughter,’ Brittan, 16 years after donating eggs. Even more unusual, JoLana and Brittan met in person for the very first time on Katie Couric’s daytime television show. The episode will air Wednesday, June 11 (find your local station here). JoLana filled us in on what it was like to meet a child produced from her donations. Check it out!
I spent years abusing cocaine and marijuana to deal with severe depression, anxiety, and anorexia. I spent a month in a psychiatric hospital ten years ago, and I still take prescription mood stabilizers twice a day. My family history includes ovarian cancer, schizophrenia, autism, substance use, and obesity. But last year I was struggling to make ends meet and support a household with a salary of $30,000 in New York City. So I lied my ass off to become an egg donor.
As a result of invisibility and stigma around egg donation, many egg donors struggle to find ways to talk about our experiences with people who are supportive and understanding. Sometimes even our loved ones are at a loss for words when we disclose that we are in the process of donating our eggs or that we have donated in the past. I asked a group of egg donors about some of the uncomfortable questions and comments they’ve received in conversations about donating. Based on their answers, here are some things to avoid saying when talking to an egg donor.
I decided to donate my eggs for the first time last year. Once I was matched with a set of parents, I told my employer, whose staff encouraged me to write about the experience. At first, I thought my experience would make for a lighthearted Sunday feature story, but as the donation process dragged on, the story changed into something very different.
I have compiled a list of things that you may want to consider when reviewing your egg donor agreement. This is not intended to be an all-inclusive list. Depending on the specific terms of your agreement there may be other things you may want to consider. There is no substitute for having your own legal representation!
This interview is about stigma, being queer, and navigating a heteronormative medical landscape. While egg donation is presented as a simple clinical procedure, there is a lot of room for reducing stigma and acknowledging a fuller scope of, you know, how people actually feel about it. To some of us, our narratives are more complex than “wham, bam, thank you for your huevos, good job, here’s a check, you’ll be fine, good bye.”
Tax law will soon be clearer on how compensation from our egg donations will be treated for tax purposes in the United States. Throughout these last few months, We Are Egg Donors has fielded dozens of emails from U.S. donors regarding the appeal process. Our Forum has been a-buzz with donors discussing how they were advised by their individual accountants. Soon, the mystery surrounding unwelcome 1099s will be clarified, if not disappear.
Skyping with the Australian clinic felt contradictory. I felt extremely confused during the interview because my interviewer kept referring to my egg donation as “altruistic.” To me, “altruism” means giving a gift, in this case it would be my eggs, but I wasn’t exactly altruistic because I would be getting paid.
Communicating with my doctor was a challenge; even though he really did try his best, he didn’t understand everything I was saying. I had never donated before and I had a lot of questions. But because of the language barrier, I had a really hard time getting answers. In retrospect, it would be a lot safer for egg donors if there were a translator who could make sure that pertinent medical information is being communicated, both ways.
I needed 5 extensive surgeries over a very short time period. I was extremely sick, and every doctor I saw was exasperated by how aggressive my case was. I went from being 100% healthy, to having one of the worst cases of endometriosis that even some of the top specialists had ever seen – and that all started within 6 months of donating my eggs.
I felt like I had to sell myself. Saying the things although true are what people want to hear. It’s worse than a blind date. Specifically the motivation question — Why did you choose to be a donor? — I was specifically told not to say “financial incentive.” Which I think is most donors motivation. I feel like when you are looking for a life partner you are looking at the person as a whole, flaws and all, and I feel like this selection process should be treated the same.
Elizabeth was what is called a “premier” egg donor: she was paid $15,000 per cycle. Due to the subsequent health issues she experienced, she was able to successfully appeal all taxes on her compensation. In this interview, I ask her about what it’s like being a high-demand donor, what her body has gone through, and for advice she has for egg donors.
The US Tax Court has reached a decision in the groundbreaking tax case in which an egg donor, Nichelle Perez, argued that her egg donation compensation should be excluded her gross income and exempted from taxes owed. The outcome? Perez lost. Sierra Falter, attorney and founding member of We Are Egg Donors, weighs in on what this new ruling means for egg donors.
On January 22, 2015, Judge Holmes held the fees paid to egg donors are taxable:
The court held “[c]ompensation for pain and suffering resulting from the consensual performance of a service contract is not “damages” under I.R.C. section 104(a)(2) and must be included in gross income.
Seeing as I’m a tax law nerd, I’ve pulled a few of my favorite and key parts of the court’s decision.
Sonja O’Hara is a New York-based writer and actress who wrote and starred in Ovum, a narrative feature film based on her experience as a three-time egg donor. 70 percent of her film was financed with her eggs — Ovum is meant to spur a conversation about eugenics, reproduction, and the unseen side of the market for elite and top shelf eggs.
[Heads up: This interview contains NSFW images. Film stills courtesy of Ovum film.]