As Apple, Facebook Offer Egg Freezing, Debate Swirls
October 20, 2014
By Riley McDermid, BioSpace.com Breaking News Sr. Editor
Large tech companies that announced this week that they will be offering in-house insurance coverage for women who want to freeze their eggs have become a flashpoint in the national conversation about reproductive rights for all families.
A typical round of egg retrieval and freezing costs about $10,000 and is not typically covered by insurers unless a couple can prove past struggles with severe infertility. Two rounds of the procedures are the industry standard in order to harvest about 20 eggs, the optimum amount recommended by fertility specialists. Around $500 or more usually goes towards storage fees annually.
Now, however, companies are beginning to offer $20,000 or more in an effort to sweeten the deal and remain competitive when hiring female employees and executives.
The news immediately sparked debate in social media about whether the egg freezing option could have the opposite effect, pressuring women to delay childbearing in order to further their careers simply because their employers offer the option.
“Is an employer paying to freeze a woman’s eggs empowering or suggesting motherhood and a career are incompatible?” tweeted Miranda Dawn, a songwriter, in a widely reported commentary.
Facebook Inc. began offering the benefit in January but Apple Inc. said last week it, too, would provide the benefit, saying in a statement it wants to “empower women at Apple to do the best work of their lives as they care for loved ones and raise their families.”
For its part, Facebook has said it will offer full coverage, or as much as $20,000 in expenses to help employees retrieve and freeze their eggs, which could include IVF procedures, court fees or surrogacy.
Past research into the topic have found that some women have felt pressured to delay having children because their employers or benefits were inflexible. A study conducted by New York University in 2013 found that 19 percent of out 183 women polled said they might have had children earlier in their careers if their employers had been more supportive.
Facebook spokeswoman Genevieve Grdina told news outlets last week that the company is committed to family supportive benefits including on-site nursing rooms for new mothers, subsidies for daycare, and $4,000 in “baby cash” and paid parental leave when a baby is born or adopted.
Still, some member of the tech community have said they wished the choice of when and how to conceive, remained a personal one.
"This is a nice perk but of course it's a very personal decision for every working woman. When to time college, grad school, babies, starting a career, accelerating a career — all of these have huge ramifications in your life and that of your significant other," Kellye Sheehan with Women in Technology, a professional organization for women in the tech industry, told USA Today. "Is the employer trying to tell us something? Agreed, working mothers have a lot to juggle. But you can't let your employer force you into something that doesn't fit your values or personal choices.”