Jill Power | Student Columnist
Last week saw news of Apple and Facebook offering to cover the cost of “egg-freezing” under its employee healthcare. Ladies, take note: some corporations are willing to cover a costly fertility procedure so that you can have meter control over your body. Your move, Hobby Lobby.
Essentially, both companies will cover up to $20,000 for women and dependents of male employees to freeze and store their eggs for non-medical reasons. Non-medical reasons include harvesting healthy eggs in order to more likely have a successful pregnancy later in life. This is compared to a medical reason, such as a patient who still wants to have children but is undergoing chemotherapy, or an equally intense medical procedure that would ravage her reproductive system.
A typical procedure can cost up to $10,000 per round. Women will typically be able to produce 10 to 20 eggs per round, and it is recommended that women freeze around 20 eggs. There is an addition fee each year for egg storage, which is usually around $500 per year.
My initial reaction was along the lines of, “Hey, that’s really neat that an employer would cover a procedure that makes the lives of some women easier and reinforces their support of a woman’s authority over her own body!” Unfortunately, the matter is more complicated that simply providing coverage that wasn’t there before.
Don’t get me wrong; Apple and Facebook have their hearts in the right place with covering the procedure. It’s easy to see this as a message to women to avoid having children if you want to work there, but they’re also providing an option for women to make a choice with what they want to do with their bodies. In light of companies like Hobby Lobby taking away a woman’s right to birth control and other preventative measures against unwanted pregnancies, this is a step in the right direction for the way companies treat their female employees
Women aren’t the only ones benefiting from this change in policy. Men, too, will be able to reap the benefits of egg freezing. Wives or partners who are cared for under a male employee’s health insurance can also take advantage of the benefit.
While some women feel that they have to race their “biological clock” in order to have a healthy pregnancy, men can help produce children for their entire lives. So, if a man wants to pursue his career before he starts a family, he has no clock ticking against him. Allowing women to freeze their eggs while they are healthiest, which is around age 25, puts women on the same level as men in terms of family planning.
But what about when women do start a family? Suppose an Apple employee decides that, at age 40, after having her eggs frozen for years, she’s ready to conceive and to start a family. Does that mean she has to then sacrifice her career to do so? The last time I checked, you can’t freeze children once they’re born.
Freezing eggs is not a fool-proof method of conception for older women, either. It has only been deemed non-experimental for two years, and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine does not encourage women to rely on egg-freezing as a foolproof method of conceiving later.
What’s important to remember is that it is each individual’s choice to decide when they have children. Some people lack the emotional or financial stability to be parents at age 25. That’s perfectly fine; no one expects them to be ready. But that doesn’t mean that their fertility has to go to waste. Freezing eggs while they are healthiest provides a safety net for those who want to have the best possible change of getting pregnant when they decide to do so.
But, if Apple and Facebook wanted to really win over women techies, they would also be providing benefits once their employees have children or for those who already have children, such as subsidized daycare and longer paid leaves for new parents.