Blunt egg donor ad generates controversy among students, CSAIL
Creator claims his girlfriend is ‘desperate’ for child and that he expected controversy
An advertisement that ran in the March 23 issue of The Tech began “Genius Asian Egg Donor Wanted,” and offered $20,000, sparking a heated debate on campus and prompting a discussion on CSAIL’s general mailing list.
The person behind the ad is William Naylor, a Caltech alum and researcher who currently lives in Cupertino, California. He has solicited egg donations at MIT multiple times, since as early as 2009.
Naylor has had two children with eggs donated from members of the MIT community, according to comments he made to The Tech. He estimates he interviewed over 50 candidates in the process.
The children are being raised by two different mothers, and were conceived as part of two relationships Naylor was formerly in. Both women were in their 40s. Naylor, now with a new woman, says he ran the ad again hoping for another child.
While not all details were verifiable at the time of publication, Naylor’s comments about his profession, alma mater, and place of residence were supported by independent research done by The Tech this week.
Members of the MIT community were concerned by the message and wording of the ad. “I cannot help to suspect he is merely looking to get in contact with young, smart, but financially vulnerable Asian female students with some dodgy intent,” one alum wrote on a mailing list.
The ad described the ideal candidate as a “21 year old Chinese MIT student, top in her class, several awards in high school and university.” (According to Naylor, all three girlfriends he has run the ads with have been Chinese.)
Robin Scheffler, an MIT professor in the Science, Technology, and Society Program who focuses on the history of biomedical sciences, said that the ad relies on an assumption that intelligence and success are strongly linked to genetics. Such an assumption, Scheffler wrote over email, is “scientifically and socially misguided as well as deeply problematic in a historical sense.”
There are considerable risks associated with donating eggs, none of which made it into the ad. These include premenstrual syndrome and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. According to the New York Department of Health, some studies have shown that the required fertility drugs may also increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Naylor acknowledged these health hazards, but claimed that he always offers to pay the women for an independent consultation with a doctor of their choice to review the medical procedure beforehand. He maintained that the women are well-informed and able to decide for themselves.
Scheffler, however, cited the possible danger that “women in dire financial condition would feel they had no choice but to undertake a risky procedure with potential long-term medical risks to donate their eggs.” He continued: “As an ethical matter this is not the kind of choice that a just society should ask women — or anyone — to make.”
This unfair burden is especially relevant to the The Tech’s decision to run the ad, Scheffler said, given that “publishing advertisements for egg donors draws college newspapers into these broader ethical debates.”
The chairman of The Tech, Olivia Brode-Roger ’17, approved the ad because it did not fall under any of the three categories that she looks for before rejecting an ad: emulation of content, direct calls to harm, or an obvious scam.
The decision is one that other members of the managing board were not fully behind. Prior to this incident, the chairman had full authority to accept or reject any advertisement brought to her. In response to the egg donor ad, The Tech’s managing board unanimously decided to expand that authority to apply to all members of the managing board who are not associated with news, opinion, arts, or other content.
As for Naylor, the reason he and his girlfriends have sought egg donors from MIT is that he believes their other options have failed. The women have been infertile, the egg donor clinics have been “amazingly skittish,” and the reactions from faculty at Caltech — where he also used to advertise — have kept him away.
The two previously successful donations from MIT led him to re-run the ad here. He anticipated that “there [was] going to be a shit storm,” but says that he “caved in.”
To the critics, he wished “they could meet the 40-something woman that is desperate for a child and doesn’t have one — and hear her crying about it, and hear her desperation.”
So far, the ad has yielded three responses. Two have been from reporters. Only one was an MIT student with potential interest, but Naylor suspects that the ensuing controversy might have now scared her away.