Health Canada is not planning to take any action against the practice of selling human ova on the internet, despite the ostensible prohibition of the practice under Canada’s Assisted Reproduction Technologies Act. Citing a loophole in the legislation, a Health Canada official says the act does not ban the advertising of human genetic materials, only their purchase. “It’s a payment to a donor that is illegal,” said Francine Manseau. “Advertising is not illegal.”

Women selling ova on internet sites do not have to sell to Canadian customers and the asking price can be very tempting. Le Journal de Montreal interviewed six women, ranging in age from 18 to 31, who said they were willing to sell their eggs.

One was in financial difficulty; another wanted to buy a house. Prices ranged from $500 to $2,000.

University of British Columbia geneticist Patricia Baird, who headed the 1993 Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies expressed her surprise that Health Canada is unwilling to act. “Clearly, if it’s illegal to sell eggs, it should be illegal to advertise selling them. The potential for exploitation of women who need money to sell their eggs is enormous,” said Baird.

Baird was among the foremost promoters of the Canadian legislation in the scientific research community.

During the debates, pro-life leaders attempted to warn legislators that the bill was riddled with loopholes and inaccurate language that would render much of its prohibitions toothless. Attempts to tighten up the legislation’s wording were thwarted by the Liberal government and opposition supporters of the bill, who insisted that any problems could be ironed out later when the promised regulatory agency was installed and regulations had been established.

This article originally appeared on on March 9. It is reprinted here with permission.