Let us talk about eggs! Professional resistance to elective egg vitrification and gendered medical paternalism
In this paper, by applying a feminist bioethical perspective, we identify a new form of medical paternalism that still shapes contemporary legal policies on human egg cryopreservation performed without medical reasons. The fear of negligent, careless women who opt to delay their pregnancy for mere convenience is a widely known gender biased stereotype. Nevertheless, the opinions and judgments of medical professionals on this issue have not yet been sufficiently explored by in-depth research. In this essay, therefore, first we look at the broader bioethical, legal, and social aspects of human egg cryopreservation. In the second part of the paper we discuss a unique qualitative study conducted with professionals working at Hungarian IVF clinics. We argue, based on a bioethical analysis of the collected data, that when new reproduction technologies provide opportunities for women to widen their range of reproductive choices, the traditional forms of medical paternalism can be reinforced by gendered paternalism, as well. We identify several elements of gendered paternalism that characterized the attitudes of the IVF staff and discuss the professionals’ resistance to elective egg freezing and vitrification of eggs for the future. We conclude by suggesting directions for future policy. Although we focus on the Hungarian case in this paper, we are aware that similar attitudes can be observed in some other countries where this technology has become available and requested by women, but where they also face difficulties in their access to it.
KeywordsOocyte cryopreservation Social freezing Elective egg freezing Social egg freezing Medical paternalism
- Cattapan, Alana, Kathleen Hammond, Jennie Haw, and Lesley A. Tarasoff. 2014. Breaking the ice: Young feminist scholars of reproductive politics reflect on egg freezing. IJFAB: International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics 7 (2): 236–247. (Special Issue on Transnational Reproductive Travel, Fall 2014)Google Scholar
- Dworkin, Gerald. 1976. Paternalism. In Moral problems in medicine, ed. Samuel Gorovitz, Ruth Macklin, Andrew L. Jameton, John M. O’Connor and Susan Sherwin, 185–200. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
- Evernden, Neil. 1989. Nature in industrial society. In Cultural Politics in Contemporary America, eds. Ian H. Angus, and Sut Jhally, 151–164. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Fadini, R., Dal Canto, M. B., Mignini Renzini, M., Brambillasca, F., Comi, R., Fumagalli, D., Lain, M., Merola, M., Milani, R., and E. De Ponti. 2009. Effect of different gonadotrophin priming on IVM of oocytes from women with normal ovaries: A prospective randomized study. Reproductive BioMedicine Online 19 (3): 343–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Inhorn, Marcia C. 2013. “Women, consider freezing your eggs.” CNN.com, April 9, 2013. http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/09/opinion/inhorn-egg-freezing. Accessed 31 March 2017.
- Keglovits, B. 2015. A social egg freezing és a munkaerő-piaci nemegyenlőtlenség kapcsolata. Masters Thesis. Corvinus University, Budapest.Google Scholar
- Mohapatra, Seema. 2014. Using egg freezing to extend the biological clock: Fertility insurance or false hope? Harvard Law and Policy Review 8 (2): 381–411.Google Scholar
- Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 2016. OECD Family Database, Indicator SF2.1, “Fertility Rates”. https://www.oecd.org/els/family/SF_2_1_Fertility_rates.pdf. Accessed 31 March 2017.
- Paksi, V., and Szalma Ivett. 2009. Age norms of childbearing. early, ideal and late childbearing in European Countries. Review of Sociology of the Hungarian Sociological Association 2: 57–80.Google Scholar
- Papadopoulou, Lina, ed. 2015. (In)Fertile citizens anthropological and legal challenges of assisted reproduction technologies. Athens: Alexandria Publications, 23–39.Google Scholar
- Sándor, Judit. 2014. Hibernált anyaság, avagy mit tehet a sejt? Magyar Narancs 2014/47. Available in Hungarian at http://magyarnarancs.hu/egotripp/hibernalt-anyasag-avagy-mit-tehet-a-sejt-92678. Accessed 15 Mar 2017.
- Scharle, Á. 2015. Attitudes to gender roles in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Hungary: Budapest Institute and Institute of Economics.Google Scholar
- Sobotka, T. 2004. Postponement of childbearing and low fertility in Europe. Doctoral Thesis, University of Groningen.Google Scholar
- Stoop, Dominic, Elise Maes, and Nikolaos P. Polyzos, Greta Verheyen, Herman Tournaye, and Julie Nekkebroeck. 2015. Does oocyte banking for anticipated gamete exhaustion influence future relational and reproductive choices? A follow-up of bankers and non-bankers. Human Reproduction 30 (2): 338–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Szalma, Ivett. 2010. Attitűdök a házasságról és a gyermekvállalásról [Attitudes towards Marriage and Childbearing]. Demográfia 53 (1): 38–66.Google Scholar
- Szalma, Ivett, and Judit Takács. 2016. Gyermektelenség Magyarországon: Mítoszok és kutatási eredmények [Childlessness in Hungary: Myths and research results]. Magyar Tudomány 177 (2): 159–167.Google Scholar
- Vicsek, L. 2017. Fertility myths, technology myths and their sources – Lay reasoning on age-related fertility decline. Budapest: manuscript.Google Scholar
- Yu, L., B. Peterson, Marcia C. Inhorn, J. K. Boehm, and P. Patrizio. 2016. Knowledge, attitudes, and intentions toward fertility awareness and oocyte cryopreservation among obstetrics and gynecology resident physicians. Human Reproduction 31 (2): 403–411.Google Scholar