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Lack of minority egg donors impacting local family

It's an issue that is rarely talked about, but one that is affecting families right here in our area.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Infertility is a subject that's being talked about more and more as couples share their challenges and find support. But the reality is, everyone's infertility journey is different-and what obstacles you face might vary by race.

As of March 2, 2021, there are no black egg donors in West Michigan. It's an issue that is rarely talked about, but one that is affecting families right here in our area.

When 13 ON YOUR SIDE producer Rhonda Spencer and her husband Jamal were looking for a black egg donor and couldn't find one she started asking questions.

"It just seemed like this wasn't something that black women even thought about," Rhonda said. "I had some say that just seems weird, they couldn't wrap their head around it. And so part of me thinks its maybe just a cultural thing."

RELATED: Minority couple in West Michigan face unexpected hurdle while on the search for an egg donor

The founder of Fertility for Colored Girls (FFCG), Rev. Dr. Stacey Edwards-Dunn agrees. "Culturally, we as women of color, or women who have been kissed by nature's sun, we have some very unique experiences that we bring to the table regarding our fertility challenges," she explained.

That's why Rev. Dr. Edwards-Dunn founded FFCG, which has grown to include 14 chapters across the country, including Detroit. 

"I felt led to start it because there was no organization available for women who looked like me or a safe space where we could come to share our unique experiences," Rev. Dr. Edwards-Dunn explained.

She says the reason there are so few black egg donors is three fold and it starts with fear of the medical community. 

"Many black women and couples do not trust the medical system because of things like the Tuskegee experience, when we think about Henrietta Lacks and Dr. Sims who performed all of these procedures on slaves or black women without anesthesia, we are very leery." 

She says there is a lack of awareness as well, and that "a lot of black women don't even realize that it's an option." 

Then there is the cultural piece.

"When we think about what society says about who we are as black women and black men having all these babies and the implications of that and so the questions that do arise, it might mean that I'm having all these children in the world. It's so many things mentally and emotionally that we are trying to discern," said Rev. Dr. Edwards-Dunn.

Rhonda's willingness to share her story is an important part of raising awareness surrounding this issue, so change can happen.

 "When they are able to trust medical providers I think we will see more donors in the community," said Rev. Dr. Edwards-Dunn.

 In the end Rhonda and Jamal chose to move forward.

"We decided that having a healthy donor was the most important thing, so whether it was a black woman or a white woman, or someone who was biracial -- it didn't quite matter to us anymore, we just wanted someone who was healthy," she shared.

Even though the path to parenthood has been winding, Rhonda is hopeful.

"The encouraging thing about having an egg donor is that statistically they are very successful and so even though there have been a lot of let downs throughout this entire journey, just knowing what could potentially be at the end of it makes it all worth it."

Donating eggs is a selfless act, and one that does come with compensation. For applicants who make it through the screening process and are able to donate at the Fertility Center in Grand Rapids, they will receive a $4000 check on the day of egg retrieval.

The Center also has a donor referral incentive program in place, if you refer someone who donates successfully, you'll receive $500. They really want to expand their donor bank and need the help of the community to do it.

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