The vast majority of people probably don’t expect there to be laws on egg freezing. They would however be wrong. In fact, the legislation surrounding this comes under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 1990, which was subsequently amended by the HFEA in 2008.
The law states that any eggs frozen for non-medical reasons must be destroyed if they have not been used within a 10-year period. Non-medical reasons generally refer to social reasons. For example, more women than ever are proactively choosing to freeze their eggs, just in case they are to fall victim to a medical condition which could negatively affect their fertility – almost as a back-up plan. In fact, in 2016, 46 per cent of women who froze their eggs did so without a partner.
The 10-year time restriction does not apply to people who are freezing their eggs for medical reasons such as cancer or fertility problems. These eggs can be kept for a maximum of 55 years. So if there is potential for these to develop into embryos successfully, why are other eggs being destroyed? After all, the procedure is expensive and can range from £3,500 and £4,500 for one cycle. On top of that you pay a storage fee from £200 to £360per year.
The debate came to the forefront of conversation recently as the first legal challenge to this legislation was approached in court. A woman who paid to freeze her eggs whilst not in a relationship in 2009 is hitting her 10-year deadline and wishes to keep her eggs as she is still not prepared to have the procedure. Her lawyer is stating the disposal of the eggsas incompatible with human rights laws on private and family life.
Being the first case bought into the public eye, it could prove a landmark case for women’s rights across the UK. The conversation volume has increased, and women have raised some interesting points for discussion. Many argue that they are under pressure to freeze their eggs young, to improve their success rate due to enhanced fertility – therefore considering this law discriminatory and an intense pressure.
There is also the question of ethics. After all, with around 1 in 7 couples having difficulty conceiving, does it make sense to destroy potentially healthy ovum’s? Is it inhumane even? Many women are uncomfortable with the idea of something they have preserved going to waste. This is understandable when you consider the premium price being paid.
Most prominently of all – there is no scientific basis to the time limit. For such a complex and innovative process, it seems strange that there is no logic to this constraint. In fact, what this law is doing is adding mounting pressures to women who have invested heavily into the process, to use their eggs before their time is up. This can lead to further social issues such as not being ready, financially or personally.
As mentioned, the conversation is getting louder and louder. Not for much longer will the government be able to ignore the demand from women who are looking to enhance their chances of having a child. Only with the removal or reform of this archaic law will the masses concerned truly be satisfied.
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