Monday, March 20, 2006

Ova Freezing as a Lifestyle Choice

If science CAN do it, they WILL do it...regardless of the moral considerations or social implications. In this case, the wildly unnatural process involves women deciding to have their ovaries artificially stimulated to produce eggs which are then frozen in liquid nitrogen so that they can be used years later.

For some women, this is a source of cash when they sell their eggs on the in vitro fertilization market. For others, like those highlighted in this (U.K.) Guardian article, the eggs remain in their minus-196 Centigrade bath until the prospective mother decides she is better situated to conceive. "Convenient pregnancy" is thus the main attraction. A woman, for instance, could delay motherhood until after her working career was over. As the article states:

...Egg freezing allows women to choose a conception date by freezing eggs in their 20s for use as late as their 50s. It is fertility intervention for women who don't necessarily have fertility problems, a sort of precautionary IVF. And, because a healthy woman can carry a baby in her womb long after menopause, in theory it gives her (almost) the same reproductive window as a man...

Ah, equal rights! Science helping destroy yet another of those oh-so-sexist differentiations between people. Yet even the Guardian article admits there are some who believe the process is being terribly misused. Dr Eleonora Porcu, who the article describes as "Europe's leading authority on egg freezing" believes that using the procedure for profit or for lifestlye convenience is irresponsible.

Dr Porcu, speaking from her clinic in Bologna, Italy, is adamant that ethical and medical reasons should be at the heart of decisions to use egg freezing. The technology, she says, was not designed as a form of DIY reproductive delay. She argues the very idea is anti-women because it allows society to maintain the pretence that having a family is a hindrance to a career. She argues that it is taking birth control too far: "You have to take pills. You have to induce superovulation. All this, not because you have a disease but for some hypothetical pregnancy after the age of 40? I think it is risky. And the idea of postponing a pregnancy because it is not accepted in your workplace when you are 30? This is something really violent towards women..."

She finds this kind of family planning depressing: "To say when you are 30, 'Probably in 10 years I will need IVF so I'll freeze my eggs,'..." Her voice trails off. She is rendered speechless by the idea. "I don't think women should trust this. Not - and I want to be precise - because of the technique itself. It works. But to trust this technique for the planning of your reproductive life... Well, I am a bit perplexed by the idea." Suddenly she realises the one application it does have. She laughs. "Hmm, I think this is a way for doctors to earn money."