Washington D.C., Oct 17, 2014 / 03:04 am
Tech giants' new policies offering egg freezing options as a work benefit overlook the technique's "highly problematic" failure rates and risks to potential children, says a leading ethicist in the field.
"What the rationale seems to be is you don't have to stop your career to have your children. You can bank your eggs and have them to use down the road," said Jennifer Lahl, founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, regarding a new policy by Facebook and Apple to subsidize the freezing of female employees' eggs.
"Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way because egg banking, egg freezing and artificial reproductive technologies have a very high failure rate," she explained to CNA in an Oct. 15 interview. "It's highly problematic."
Apple has recently announced that as of 2015, it will begin offering coverage for egg freezing, joining social media giant Facebook, who already covers up to $20,000 in egg-freezing costs.
Egg harvesting and freezing generally costs approximately $10,000 per round, with at least $500 in fees for storage. Artificial reproduction experts suggest that clients produce and store about 20 eggs, which typically requires two rounds of the procedures necessary to retrieve the eggs.
Frozen eggs can later be thawed and inseminated in vitro, and any embryos produced by the procedure can then be implanted in the mother. Catholic teaching prohibits the utilization of in-vitro fertilization and other artificial reproductive technologies that separate the creation of life from the marital act.
The funding of egg freezing as an employee benefit, Lahl said, promises "women something, when they aren't on solid ground," due to these procedure's failure rates and risks for any children produced by these technologies.
Women, she said, are told that they "can ignore your biological clock and have your children on your own time schedule," although the fact is that undergoing these procedures does not guarantee that these technologies will be able to help a woman start a family.
"There's a high failure rate with each cycle of assisted reproductive technology," she explained, adding that the process is a "very expensive technology." The procedure also does not serve a "medical need," Lahl continued.
"It's a lifestyle choice."
She also pointed out that the harvesting process requires the alteration of a woman's natural cycles in order to produce enough eggs for freezing. "She's going to be aggressively stimulated with powerful hormones in order to bank ten, twenty, thirty, forty eggs," Lahl explained.
"Children born of assisted reproductive technologies are at risk for certain problems," she said, adding that in addition to these problems, children and mothers can also face the risks associated with advanced maternal age.
Lahl noted that companies may be offering the benefit because there is a perceived demand for the procedure. "Perhaps women have asked for this which is why companies are providing this as a benefit," she said, adding that it perhaps "helps recruit people to work for the company."
However, while it may be "seen as a benefit by the employees," this acceptance of egg freezing as a means of securing female employee's fertility is "naive on their part," Lahl stated.