Employer-sponsored egg freezing: carrot or stick?

Ms Molly Johnston1,3, A. Prof  Giuliana Fuscaldo2,5, Dr Nadine Maree Richings3, Dr Stella May Gwini4,5, Dr  Sally Catt3

1Monash Bioethics Centre, Monash University, Clayton, Australia, 2Eastern Health Clinical School, Monash University, Box Hill, Australia, 3Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Monash University, Clayton, Australia, 4School of Public Health & Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, 5University Hospital Geelong, Barwon Health, Geelong, Australia

Since 2014, many companies have followed the lead of Apple and Facebook and now offer financial support to female employees to access egg freezing. Some Australian companies already offer this, and others may soon make similar offers. Despite the growing availability of employer-sponsored egg freezing (ESEF) and significant academic debate about what impact ESEF may have on reproductive autonomy, little is known about how ESEF is perceived by the public. The aim of this study was to explore women’s attitudes toward ESEF.

A cross-sectional survey was completed by 656 women residing in Victoria, median age 28 years (range: 18-60 years). Opinions on the appropriateness of employers offering ESEF were divided (Appropriate: 278, 42%; Inappropriate: 177, 27%; Unsure: 201, 31%).  While some participants saw the potential for ESEF to increase women’s reproductive and career options, others were concerned that ESEF could pressure women to delay childbearing and reinforce the ‘career vs. family’ dichotomy.  A proportion of respondents were less categorical about whether ESEF is a good or bad option and instead indicated conditional support for ESEF.

Our analysis reveals that while some women identified risks with ESEF, for many women ESEF is not viewed as theoretically wrong, but rather it may be acceptable under certain conditions; such as with protections around reproductive freedoms and assurances that ESEF is offered alongside other benefits that promote career building and family. We suggest that there may be a role for the State in ensuring that these conditions are met.


Biography:

Molly Johnston is an assistant lecturer and postdoctoral researcher at the Monash Bioethics Centre, Monash University. Her research interests include the ethics of and policies governing reproductive technologies.

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