In 2014, Apple and Facebook announced that they would add egg-freezing to their employees’ compensation packages—a generous financial incentive to women interested in the procedure, as each round of egg retrieval can cost between $10,000 and $15,000. 139 Though in the past egg-freezing was often used by women who underwent perimenopause early or by those who received chemotherapy, today this new perk might be used to attract young female employees interested in delaying motherhood. 140 As companies struggle to hire and retain women, offering egg-freezing benefits may allow employers like Apple to hold on to some of its most ambitious employees: women who want to “have it all,” with both a career and motherhood. Both Apple and Facebook have explained that they are simply responding to employees’ demands, with Apple adding that the company wants to make sure that its female employees “do the best work of their lives as they care for loved ones and raise their families.” 141 Brigitte Adams, an employee at a tech company, seems to agree: “I would equate it to . . . adoption assistance . . . [I]t’s not the be-all and end-all, but it’s definitely a nice perk.” 142
Though egg-freezing is no longer an experimental technology, it does come with risks. Before eggs can be harvested via outpatient surgery, women have to inject themselves with strong hormones. 143 When women decide to use the eggs, there is only a 30% chance that the implanted zygote will result in the birth of a child. 144 Moreover, the older women get and the more rounds of egg retrieval they undergo, the lower the odds of success. 145 For this reason, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine has declared that they “cannot at this time endorse its widespread elective use to delay childbearing.” 146
Indeed, sociologist Rene Almeling and historians Joanna Radin and Sarah Richardson have expressed the worry that egg-freezing benefits represent a failure of corporate policy to see childbearing and childrearing as a human need, instead of an inconvenience that needs to be solved through technological innovation. 147 Policies that support childbearing and childrearing as a human need emphasize paid leave and view family life not as a hindrance but rather as something that can be compatible with high performance at work. However, instead of empowering women and allowing them to take control of their fertility, egg-freezing may pressure women to delay motherhood in order to be perceived as “serious employees.” 148 If the intention is to make the workplace more amenable to women, companies could instead address the systemic problems faced by working mothers, such as “the limited availability of subsidized care for preschool children, the resistance of corporate culture to flexible or reduced hours for the parents of young children, the lack of federally mandated, paid family leave.” 149
139 Claire Miller, “Freezing Eggs as Part of Employee Benefits: Some Women See Darker Message.” The New York Times, July 16, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/15/upshot/egg-freezing-as-a-work-benefit…
140 Rebecca Meade, “Cold Comfort: Tech Jobs and Egg Freezing.” The New Yorker, July 16, 2015, http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/facebook-apple-egg-freezing…
141 Miller, supra.
142 Laura Sydell, “Silicon Valley Companies Add New Benefit For Women: Egg-Freezing.” NPR, July 16, 2015, http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/10/17/356765423/silicon…
143 Rene Almeling, Joanna Radin, and Sarah S. Richardson, “Egg-freezing a better deal for companies than for women.” CNN, July 16, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/20/opinion/almeling-radin-richardson-egg-fre…
144 Almeling, Radin, and Richardson, supra.
145 Sydell, supra.
146 The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “Committee Opinion: Oocyte Cryopreservation,” January 2014, http://www.acog.org/-/media/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Gynecologic…
147 Almeling, Radin, and Richardson, supra.
148 Miller, supra.
149 Meade, supra.
REGIONAL ETHICS BOWL CASES FALL 2015
Gretchen Adel Myers, Chair
Susanna Flavia Boxall
Rhiannon Dodds Funke
© Association for Practical and Professional Ethics 2015