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Friday, October 17, 2014

Egg Freezing and Women's Decision Making

The announcement by Apple and Facebook that they will cover the costs of egg freezing predictably provoked some controversy—predictably because it involves reproduction and also because too many people do not trust women to make reproductive decisions.

Interestingly, the challenge to women’s autonomy can come from both sides of the political spectrum, as has happened with several assisted reproductive technologies. Scholars on the left criticized surrogate motherhood on the ground that surrogates were exploited by the couple intending to raise the child, and other new reproductive technologies are criticized on the grounds that women will feel obligated to use them rather than free to use them. Indeed, this concern about coercion drives some of the objections to egg freezing.

Some women freeze their eggs because they face infertility from cancer chemotherapy; other women may not have found a life partner and want to suspend their biological clock until that time comes.

But some observers worry that with the option of egg freezing, some women will succumb to the pressures of the workplace and choose egg freezing not because they really want to but because they feel that have to. After all, if a woman can delay procreation and put in long hours at the office, why shouldn’t she do so? Employers might think that women who forgo egg freezing are not really committed to their jobs.

These concerns are legitimate, but are people too willing to invoke them? Egg freezing is not a simple procedure, nor is its success a certainty. Even if covered by insurance, women are not likely to choose egg freezing lightly. We should worry that egg freezing critics may be too ready to question the decision making capacity of women contemplating their reproductive choices.

[cross-posted at Bill of Health and Health Law Profs

Posted by David Orentlicher on October 17, 2014 at 02:51 PM in Culture, Current Affairs, Science | Permalink


Yes, I should have referred to NY's law as a ban on commercial surrogacy. Thank you for the clarification.

Posted by: David Orentlicher | Oct 19, 2014 3:37:53 PM

To clarify:

"It is legal in New York for a volunteer to carry a baby without pay, known as altruistic or compassionate surrogacy."


Not that I claim it should be taken as a place to go to clarify legal matters, the immediate instance I keep on thinking about here is the surrogacy on "Rules of Engagement," which takes place in NYC.

Posted by: Joe | Oct 19, 2014 10:43:08 AM

Not with egg freezing, but yes with surrogate motherhood. Elizabeth Scott described the support from the left for New York's ban on surrogacy in "Surrogacy and the Politics of Commodification," 72 Law and Contemporary Problems 109, 119 (2009).

Posted by: David Orentlicher | Oct 18, 2014 2:17:17 PM

"Interestingly, the challenge to women’s autonomy can come from both sides of the political spectrum, as has happened with several assisted reproductive technologies."

I think that this is 'fair and balanced', a la Fox. Some on the left criticize this; have they yet tried to ban it?

Posted by: Barry | Oct 18, 2014 9:00:37 AM

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