I was at a seminar recently where the idea that egg freezing would lead to more equality between the sexes was debated – if women were able freeze eggs when they were younger, it was argued, they wouldn’t need to worry about their biological clocks. Women could have children when they wanted rather than in the time frame that nature specifies, thus making them more like men. It was pointed out that men have been freezing sperm for decades and yet when women are given the chance to freeze eggs, we suddenly raise all kinds of ethical issues.
It’s an interesting argument, but is egg freezing really a way of making women more equal?For a start, it’s a costly business and is only ever likely to be available to those who can afford to pay. And it’s often not until a time when female fertility is already in decline that most women have the money – or the inclination – to freeze their eggs.
The other concern for those who freeze is that having a store of eggs in the bank could lull them into a false sense of security. Women are sold the idea of preserving their fertility but fertility isn’t something you can pickle in a jar – and freezing your eggs isn’t a guarantee that you will eventually have a baby or even viable embryos. The eggs have to survive thawing, they have to fertilise, develop and implant. Success rates are not high.
So is egg freezing a feminist issue? Will it allow women to stop worrying about their declining fertility? Is it empowering them or is it storing up future disappointment?