In recent years, egg freezing, or in medical terminology, oocyte cryopreservation, has evolved from a headline news novelty to a commonplace procedure undertaken by many women usually in their late 30s and early 40s, including heavyweight celebrities like Sofia Vergara and Kim Kardashian, who wish to preserve their fertility for the future. This new modern science has transformed the traditional image of human reproduction beyond imagination. Some regard egg freezing as the next ‘reproductive revolution’, one in which women would be freed from the constraints of age-related infertility and could take control of their life trajectories. They can craft a career of their choice, accumulate wealth and accomplish their personal goals without worrying about their biological clocks ticking.
Access to this procedure for women is closely linked to personal procreative freedom and choice, which is a fundamental human right. However, in keeping with the fact that women’s bodily autonomy is a perpetual subject of debate, there are varying perspectives surrounding this matter. Presently, it is a legal requirement for married women to share their spouse’s information with their fertility clinic, in any part of the world, including India. Some deem this to be an appropriate stipulation, given the legal position their spouse is put in as a result of any future decisions they mutually/independently make about the child. In addition, as Dr. Madhuri Roy (Gynaecologist and IVF Consultant, and founder of Conceive IVF Fertility Clinic in Pimpri-Chinchwad, India) pointed out, “Since lifestyle changes are recommended and medications to improve eggs are given, involvement of both partners to support each other in the exercises, diet, stress management, hormone injections, hospital visits, managing the finances and maintaining work-life and treatment balance is needed”. So in essence, considering the physical and financial aspects of egg freezing, a husband’s involvement seems apt.
On the other hand, others view this prerequisite distastefully, as it creates regulatory barriers for married women to exercise their own procreative rights. Beyond this, it is a matter of women’s bodily sovereignty, more than anything. Even in this day and age, bodily autonomy and reproductive rights are at the forefront of political conversations, yet women seldom have a say in these male-led discussions. Having the ability to autonomously decide whether and when to have children is essential to women’s socioeconomic well-being and overall health. Research suggests that being able to make decisions about one’s own reproductive life is associated with greater relationship satisfaction (National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy 2008), more work experience among women (Buckles 2008), and increased wages and average career earnings (Miller 2011). Facing this reality, lawmakers must strike a delicate balance and provide a choice to women regarding their spouse’s involvement in their procedure, which would be grounded in an individual-centred framework that would vary from person to person. This way, women are handed control; given a choice; their bodily liberty isn’t breached.
All in all, it is important to shed light on this issue to elicit meaningful change and reform the law to recognize and protect the procreative rights of women, married or not. Since the beginning of time, women have not had the freedom to exercise choice, but collective efforts such as this are a step in the right direction.
Credits – Iman Ghani