Apple’s and Facebook’s announcement last month that they would offer $20,000 health insurance coverage to women employees to cover the cost of freezing and storing their eggs, to enable them to postpone child-bearing and keep working, elicited a rush of commentary and debate. But only now are the full ethical ramifications of this proposal becoming fully clear.
Egg or ovarian tissue freezing can be used for medical or social reasons. Medical use — for example, freezing tissue from a young woman who might become infertile because of cancer treatment so she can later have her own children — does not raise the same ethical issues as social use, the issue I address here.
Many younger women journalists who called me opened our conversation saying they were at an age when they were thinking of having a baby and they felt very disturbed by this story, but were not sure why. A common comment was “It [egg freezing] just doesn’t seem right.” Their reaction is probably an example of the “ethical yuck factor” — we intuit that something is ethically wrong, but need time to explore the matter to identify the nature of that wrong.
We’ve had some of that time now. So, is egg freezing good for women? Is it good for the resulting child? Is it good for society? And is it good for corporations, such as Apple and Facebook?
The last question is the easiest and simplest to answer: If it wasn’t good for the corporations, including their profits, they wouldn’t offer to pay for it.
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