Egg freezing is a new health care benefit for female employees of Apple and Facebook who want children, but not right away.
“Until recently, freezing a woman's eggs was reserved mainly for young women facing infertility as a result of cancer treatments like chemotherapy,” reports NPR.
But this year, Facebook began covering up to $20,000 in egg freezing costs for its employees, according to Forbes, and in January, Apple plans to cover egg freezing expenses.
The newly covered procedure is “part of already extensive benefits packages that include coverage for fertility procedures such as surrogacy and in vitro fertilization,” reportsBloomberg Businessweek.
The tech giants and its supporters argue that egg freezing allows professional women to work through critical career building years without giving up on having a family, reports the BBC.
But this employee benefit has its critics.
“It is astonishing that American culture will continue to do everything possible to support young working women in not having children,” says Charles Camosy, a professor of theology at Fordham University, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
Instead of asking women to delay having children, Camosy says, “We ought to be providing on-site child care, equal pay for equal work, and maternity leave.”
Although “both firms already offer extensive maternity and fertility benefits, such as 18 weeks of leave and $4,000 in ‘baby cash’ for parents to spend as needed,” reports the Christian Science Monitor.
Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times writes that the companies are skirting a bigger issue: The United States is the only country in the developed world without mandated paid maternity leave.
Another controversy is over the reliability of the procedure. “While egg freezing is ‘an exciting new option,’ it shouldn't be relied on to make family planning decisions," Dr. Valerie Baker, a fertility specialist at Stanford University Medical Center, tells NPR. “It's not a guarantee that if a woman freezes her eggs she's eventually going to be able to have a baby with one of those eggs.”
Career ambition isn't the only reason many women are choosing to freeze their eggs; they simply haven’t yet found a spouse and they want to “take the pressure off finding a partner before a certain age,” reports Forbes.
The response to the news over the egg-freezing employee benefit has been mixed among religious groups.
The Catholic News Agency reminds readers that “Catholic teaching prohibits the utilization of in-vitro fertilization and other artificial reproductive technologies that separate the creation of life from the marital act.”
On the other hand, some in the Orthodox Jewish community embrace the procedure for unmarried women. “Most rabbis are strongly recommending this, and most should,” said Dr. Sherman Silber, director of the Infertility Center of St. Louis, whose practice caters to Orthodox Jews, tells ABC News. “ ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ is considered the first commandment.”
“The procedure helps make these single (older) women more marriageable in the eyes of their communities,” Silber continues.
In general, Protestants support egg freezing and in vitro fertilization methods within marriage, but oppose discarding or freezing embryos after fertilization, says Christianity Today. Christian leaders are also concerned about the health risks (some still unknown) to the mother and child.
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