November 21st, 2012

Proceed with caution on social egg freezing

Reproductive technologies tend to have class biases. We should ensure that our policies do not encourage and enable only a narrow category of women to reproduce, and thereby deepen inequalities among women.

By Dr Kanwaljit Soin and Dr Vivienne Wee

AWARE upholds women’s right to choose how and when they will bear children based on informed choices (Career women seek to freeze eggs, ST, Nov 19). The egg-freezing technology offers options for women who would like the option of having children later in their lives. However, as a relatively new technology, egg freezing is not without health risks. Given the experimental state of this technology, AWARE recommends that more evidence-based studies be undertaken of potential risks and benefits, including medical, social and ethical issues, before taking any steps to make this option accessible on a national scale.

Further, AWARE would urge the Ministry of Health in its review of its policy on egg freezing to take into account the potential for abuse by businesses who offer this service.  Such businesses may be tempted to unfairly pressure or persuade a woman to freeze her eggs by not giving her full information of the risks entailed. Any policy change that makes “social egg freezing” more accessible should be accompanied by regulatory measures that prevent abuse by egg freezing service providers.

Women who seek to undergo social egg freezing must be given full and accurate information of all relevant risk factors that can affect her and the child. This is to enable her to make responsible and informed decisions about her reproductive future.

In the wider social context, if this option were to be made available, it should be made available and accessible to all women who wish to pursue this option, regardless of their marital status, financial capacity and educational status. Reproductive technologies tend to have class biases. We should ensure that our policies do not encourage and enable only a narrow category of women to reproduce, and thereby deepen inequalities among women.

If MOH’s evaluation of its policies towards “social egg freezing” is motivated by the aim of boostingSingapore’s TFR,  this aim would be more effectively realised by addressing the causes for the declining TFR. Without addressing these causes, especially the lack of support for care-givers,  the personal costs of having children would continue to be prohibitive. Any policy change to make “social egg freezing” accessible as choice should not be an excuse for drawing public attention away from other policy changes needed to address the root causes that inhibit women from having children, or result in blaming women for the declining TFR.

 

Dr Kanwaljit Soin is a past president of AWARE and Dr Vivienne Wee is the Research and Advocacy Director at AWARE. This piece was first published in The Straits Times on Nov 21, 2012. Read the published version here.

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