Elective Egg Freezing (Part 1): Mum’s the Word on Children’s Rights


Responsible Policymaking

Social Egg Freezing, as it is more commonly known as, is not without practical and ethical, medical, social and financial issues and concerns. Fortunately, the government has attempted to account for the most common issues.

There is an age cap of 35 for women who would be eligible to have their eggs frozen.

While women’s activists have expressed disappointment at the age limitation, the practical realities of a steep decline in egg quality in a woman’s mid-30s, increasing the risks of chromosomal abnormalities and complicated pregnancies, inform the age restriction. That, and policy coherence, since the age limits for egg donation are also capped at 35 for similar reasons.

An age cap of 35 is the socially responsible thing to do. Hindsight shows that in the absence of regulation, little was done in the UK to deter desperate women in their 40s (who have less than a 5% chance of successful conception with EEF), from lining the pockets of profit-driven Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) providers. Since eggs invariably degrade with time, surely the solution is not to increase the age limit, putting mothers and babies at risk, but rather to educate the public about the realities of declining fertility and to encourage the earlier formation of family units.

Concerns around communicating efficacy rates and risks to deal with false hope and knowledge gaps around EEF were accounted for

Minister of State for Social and Family Development and Education Sun Xueling assured the public that safeguards will be put in place prior to the procedure so women can make an informed choice as to whether it is for them.

One of the safeguards to be introduced is pre-procedure counselling. The White Paper proposed that counselling should highlight the “invasive nature” of the procedure and the costs, including storage and insurance costs. It should also highlight the limitations of the procedure, such as the low success rate of live births and that it does not guarantee motherhood, the risks of late pregnancies and the challenges of aged parenthood.

“It is important that the women who are considering elective egg freezing know what are the pros and cons to undergoing EEF. For instance, it is an invasive medical procedure. Also the rates of successfully conceiving a child using a frozen egg are not high. Medical evidence states that it is between 2 – 12%. It is also difficult for older women to take care of children as it might be exhausting. So one might not want to postpone parenthood to too… senior an age. Also, one also needs to be concerned about storage as well as the medical costs of elective egg freezing. So we think it is important that when a woman considers elective egg freezing, that they first undergo pre-procedure counselling which will take into account all the above that I mentioned.” – Minister of State for Social and Family Development and Education, Sun Xueling

The government also said that only legally married couples can use their frozen eggs.

This, the White Paper explained, is “consistent with upholding parenthood within marriage and the existing Assisted Reproduction regulatory framework”. Addressing a Parliamentary Question on a related issue, MSF said in 2019, “The Government does not encourage planned and deliberate single parenthood as a lifestyle choice. Hence, as a matter of public policy, we do not support the use of Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) or surrogacy by singles to conceive children and adopt them.”

Activists and media outlets alike, have questioned the need for the restrictions, arguing that neither the institution of marriage nor a woman’s age ought to infringe upon a woman’s absolute autonomy to do as she pleases with her own body.

Fringe activists even argue for the placement of children into LGBTQ+ homes. If unmitigated, this is perhaps a harbinger of Singapore’s debates in the years to come.

So much for “We just want to live our own lives. It’s just about the unfair discrimination around 377a.”

Nevertheless, the facts remain. A nuclear family nestled within the bond of marriage is the optimal setting for the raising of well-adjusted children. But there is a deeper theme here worth unpacking, that of adult wants vs. children’s rights.

As is the case with much policy, “There is no perfect policy, no perfect way of doing things”.

Despite its merits, the progressive drive toward EEF and the calibrated enablement of delayed motherhood still raise downstream social and ethical concerns worth considering.

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