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Ladies: Give Us Your Most Productive Years, We’ll Hold Your Eggs For You

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This story has so many things wrong with it, I hardly know where to start. Apple and Facebook have both announced that will now offer egg-freezing – for non-medical purposes –  for their employees (which runs at least $10,000, plus a $500 to $800 annual storage fee.)

For these companies, it means two things. One, there is a demand from their employees for such an offer. Second, the companies themselves see some benefit to this. What it sounds like is this: “It’s really not practical or productive for people to try to both work and parent during the ages when they’ll be most useful as a worker, so let’s just take care of that issue. Work, work, work…try and become a parent later.”

Here are facts about egg-freezing:

In order to retrieve eggs for freezing, a patient undergoes the same hormone-injection process as in-vitro fertilization. The only difference is that following egg retrieval, they are frozen for a period of time before they are thawed, fertilized and transferred to the uterus as embryos.

It takes approximately 4-6 weeks to complete the egg freezing cycle and is consistent with the initial stages of the IVF process including:

2-4 weeks of self-administered hormone injections and birth control pills to temporarily turn off natural hormones (this step can be skipped if there is urgency, such as prior to cancer therapy).
10-14 days of hormone injections to stimulate the ovaries and ripen multiple eggs.

Once the eggs have adequately matured, they are removed with a needle placed through the vagina under ultrasound guidance. This procedure is done under intravenous sedation and is not painful. The eggs are then immediately frozen. When the patient is ready to attempt pregnancy (this can be several years later) the eggs are thawed, injected with a single sperm to achieve fertilization, and transferred to the uterus as embryos.

Does it work? Depends on how old the woman is when her eggs are frozen, when the eggs are retrieved, and then there’s the issue of fertilized eggs (or what many of us call human beings) that don’t get “used.”

It all just seems a little…creepy, and frankly, very unfriendly towards women. “Give us the most productive years of your life, work-wise; we’ll hold onto your eggs for you.” Never mind that these are the same years when women are biologically-oriented to wanting to have children. Nope, work comes first. “We’ll take care of that whole work-family balance thing. Go ahead and give us 12-hour days.” Seems a bit like indentured servitude. “Work for us for X amount of years and we’ll reward you with your own eggs for your semi-retirement.”

Mackenzie Dawson at the New York Post is certainly uneasy about this.

It is all this work that makes it hard for so many Americans to pursue meaningful personal lives in the first place.

Until we address the national problem of overwork, these types of perks are just symbolic window dressing.

Relationships don’t just magically happen after you check off all your other goals. Life is messy.

Then there is this ethical objection from Ronald Bailey that:

…centers on claims that this technique furthers the medicalization and commercialization of women’s bodies. Of course, it is women who are choosing voluntarily to take advantage of this technology. They must believe that it can benefit them and further the development of their life plans.

Children are not “convenient.” They do not know how to follow schedules, nor do they understand a parent’s job. They are demanding, needy, wholly dependent beings. It alarms me that both people and corporations believe that a child and a family is something to be “fit into” a career, a life plan, a schedule, a corporate policy. One doesn’t schedule children in the same way one schedules a holiday or summer vacation. Kids get fevers, throw up at school, break their legs playing football. They want a parent to show up for their band concert, dance recital and hockey play-off. They don’t care about meetings, deadlines and business trips.

If a parent or a company thinks that children are to be conveniently planned and scheduled around work, I worry for the child, the family, and the culture that will create.

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Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.

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