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Laws 2014, 3(2), 282-300;

Should Postponing Motherhood via “Social Freezing” Be Legally Banned? An Ethical Analysis

Department of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine, University Medical Center Goettingen, Humboldtallee 36, Goettingen 37073, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 13 March 2014 / Revised: 30 April 2014 / Accepted: 28 May 2014 / Published: 5 June 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Legally Constructed Gendered Identities)
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In industrial societies, women increasingly postpone motherhood. While men do not fear a loss of fertility with age, women face the biological boundary of menopause. The freezing of unfertilized eggs can overcome this biological barrier. Due to technical improvements in vitrification, so-called “social freezing” (SF) for healthy women is likely to develop into clinical routine. Controversial ethical debates focus on the risks of the technique for mother and child, the scope of reproductive autonomy, and the medicalization of reproduction. Some criticize the use of the technique in healthy women in general, while others support a legally defined maximum age for women at the time of an embryo transfer after oocyte cryopreservation. Since this represents a serious encroachment on the reproductive autonomy of the affected women, the reasons for and against must be carefully examined. We analyze arguments for and against SF from a gendered ethical perspective. We show that the risk of the cryopreservation of oocytes for mother and future child is minimal and that the autonomy of the women involved is not compromised. The negative ethical evaluation of postponed motherhood is partly due to a biased approach highlighting only the medical risks for the female body without recognizing the potential positive effects for the women involved. In critical accounts, age is associated in an undifferentiated way with morbidity and psychological instability and is thus used in a discriminatory way. We come to the conclusion that age as a predictor of risk in the debate about SF is, from an ethical point of view, an empty concept based on gender stereotypes and discriminatory connotations of aging. A ban on postponing motherhood via SF is not justified. View Full-Text
Keywords: postponed motherhood; egg freezing; reproductive autonomy; ethics; gender postponed motherhood; egg freezing; reproductive autonomy; ethics; gender
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Bernstein, S.; Wiesemann, C. Should Postponing Motherhood via “Social Freezing” Be Legally Banned? An Ethical Analysis. Laws 2014, 3, 282-300.

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