Bioethics Blogs

Options or oppression: What do new egg freezing job benefits mean for women?

Egg storage for IVF. Apple and Facebook are to offer the perk alongside other benefits for staff. Photograph: Science Photo Library/Getty Images

Egg storage for IVF.  Photograph: Science Photo Library/Getty Images

By: Elizabeth Yuko, Ph.D.

Ever since the news broke on Tuesday of Facebook and Apple’s new policy of including egg freezing as a job benefit for women, there has been significant discussion and controversy surrounding the strategy. While debate on issues pertaining to gender and awareness of fertility and reproductive ethics issues is always welcome, we must also consider what implications this policy will have for women; namely, whether egg freezing could be used to limit or control women’s reproductive options.

As Claire Cain Miller discusses in an article in The New York Times, egg-freezing policies can be seen as companies paying women to put off childbearing. Miller correctly points out that enacting such policies could stigmatize women who choose to have babies earlier in their careers, indicating that they are in some way uncommitted to their job.

Women should not in any way feel pressured or coerced into freezing their eggs in order to indicate that they are taking their job seriously and are deserving of promotion. A woman’s decision to retrieve and freeze her eggs should not be based on the assumption that her employer will view her more favorably because she has taken active steps to postpone childbearing, and will not take maternity leave for some time, if at all. Moreover, framing the egg retrieval and freezing process as an elective, casual procedure or “job perk” may undermine the importance of a thorough informed consent process; it is crucial that individuals undergoing this procedure – like any medical procedure – fully comprehend all the potential risks as well as benefits that could result from the process.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.