Bioethics Blogs

Frozen Eggs and Heated Debates

Angel Petropanagos reflects on public debates about social egg freezing.

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Social egg freezing is becoming more widespread as a result of increased media coverage, clever marketing strategies, employer benefits from companies including Apple and Facebook, and government funding in Japan.

I’ve been thinking and writing about the ethical issues surrounding social egg freezing and delayed motherhood (and fatherhood) for several years. And the public debates on these topics haven’t really changed.

Proponents of social egg freezing argue that this technology can promote women’s reproductive autonomy by affording them the option of delaying genetic reproduction and parenthood in order to pursue higher education or advance their career— an option that is generally available to men on the assumption that childcare is women’s work (so there will be a woman somewhere to care for his children while he pursues his education or advances his career).

Critics of social egg freezing raise concerns about the health risks to individual women and any resulting offspring. They also worry about the fact that most women who freeze their eggs likely will never use them for reproduction. This points to a service that is characterized by unnecessary physical risks to women and needless expenditures by them, and results in a surplus of stored biological material. Further, critics worry about “false hope” that can result from the use of a technology that is not guaranteed. Some feminists worry that social egg freezing detracts attention from broader social changes, such as improved parental leave, subsidized or universal daycare, and flexible work schedules that can make it easier for women (and men) to choose to have children at a younger age.

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.