Proceed with caution on social egg freezing
THE Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) upholds a woman's right to choose how and when she will bear children based on informed choices ("Career women seek to freeze eggs"; Monday). The egg-freezing technology offers choices 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, we recommend 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, we urge the Ministry of Health, in its review of its policy on egg freezing, to take into account the potential for abuse by businesses that 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 involved. Any policy change that makes "social egg freezing" - freezing one's eggs for non-medical reasons - 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. Ensure that policies do not encourage and enable only a narrow category of women to reproduce, and thereby deepen inequalities among women.
If the Health Ministry's evaluation of its policies towards social egg freezing is motivated by the aim of boosting Singapore's total fertility rate (TFR), this aim would be more effectively realised by addressing the causes for declining birth rates.
Without addressing these causes, especially the lack of support for caregivers, the personal costs of having children would continue to be prohibitive.
Any policy change to make social egg freezing an accessible 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.
Kanwaljit Soin (Dr)
Past President, Aware
Vivienne Wee (Dr)
Research and Advocacy Director, Aware