Why you should care
Stopping the biological clock doesn’t come cheap — and women shouldn’t have to bear the whole cost.
Pooja Bhatia is an OZY editor and writer. She has written for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and the Economist, and was once the mango-eating champion of Port-au-Prince.
Egg freezing. Come on, single ladies; you know you want to. In fact, you wish you had already, like, 10 years ago. Admit it. Despite your justified resentment of the way certain media outlets bait fertility fears for sales and clicks, despite the 2 a.m. Internet surfing that reveals egg-freezing is like an insurance policy that often doesn’t pay out, despite a nagging suspicion that cryopreservation is some misogynistic hoax — you nonetheless wish you’d frozen those little suckers right around the time you got your master’s degree.
Even if freezing your eggs is just a panacea, it would go some way toward remedying the psychological injustice of it all.
Doesn’t matter whether you know you want kids or not: You want the option. After all, your ex-boyfriend Alex, the one who hemmed and hawed over that ring, will have the option to have biological children at least into his 50s and probably well beyond. So will most of the guys you date. (Thanks, biology! Ever heard of the 14th Amendment?) It’s eminently unfair, and even if freezing your eggs is just a panacea, it would go some way toward remedying the psychological injustice of it all.
Here’s the rub: It costs $13,000 to $20,000 to pump you full of hormones and then extract your genetic material — a thick wad of cash that might feel humiliating to part with, even if you have it handy. (We’re not even talking about the costs of storage and thawing.)
What if we said you shouldn’t have to bear that cost alone? The idea came to us over the summer, when one of our lovely girlfriends — roses in her cheeks, silver in her tongue and very little savings, thanks to a career in nonprofits — joked about crowd-sourcing money to pay for the procedure. “Not Kickstarter. More like ‘Clockstopper,’” she said.
“Or Eggbeater,” said another friend.
“Ew,” we said. But we saw her point. If it takes a village to raise a child, maybe the village should help preserve its women’s fertility. Certainly women bear the brunt of procreation costs — from actual labor to childcare, as well as the attendant opportunity costs — even though they still make 77 cents for every dollar that men earn.
At the same time, egg-freezing has provided a handy way to monetize a woman’s fertility: “It makes fertility a commodity,” says Sarah Elizabeth Richards, whose book, Motherhood, Rescheduled, follows four women who froze their eggs.
There’s a strong evolutionary argument that your family should chip in, as suggested every time your parents ask about their future grandkids.
So who should pay?
There’s a strong evolutionary argument that your family should chip in, as suggested every time your parents ask when you’re going to settle down and give them some grandchildren. Their selfish genes wish to propagate, so why don’t they help?
There’s also an argument that the government should chip in with subsidies — or tax credits or deductions — to help women fund the cost of a procedure that arguably will provide a future benefit to society, in terms of their spawn.
But the most plausible source of funding? It’s Alex, the beleaguered bad-guy of the tragic tale we’ve heard a thousand times: Boy meets girl; boy and girl fall in love; move in together and talk marriage. But as months turn to years and rings fail to materialize, girl begins to worry that Alex is a chronic commitmentphobe. Worse, he’s effectively taken an option out on her fertility, which is a depreciating asset — and, furthermore, it’s a free option. Why shouldn’t he chip in for the cost of the procedure?
He’s taken out an option on her fertility, which is a depreciating asset.
“I do think there’s a place to say, ‘There’s a cost to me for staying in this relationship, and it’s fair if you help me absorb it,’” Richards says. (That, Richards says, would be a better strategy than a post-hoc revenge tirade along the lines of, “You ignorant cad, this is your responsibility, too!”) If done correctly — meaning openly and without resentment — it can even bring a couple closer together, Richards adds. “It can help him invest in the relationship and make him feel less guilt about wasting her time.”
The trend is new but not unheard of, Richards says. She recently wrote about an alimony case in which the woman demanded $20,000 to cover the cost of freezing her eggs and says that lawyers are creating “love contracts” and “cohabitation agreements.”
And as marriage rates continue to decline, there may be more room to consider the formal obligations cohabitators have to each other. “The courts are beginning to grapple with the fact that marriage is no longer the only place where people enter long-term commitments, make sacrifices and incur long-term obligations,” says Stephanie Coontz, a scholar whose book, Marriage, a History, charts the evolution of wedlock, mating and romantic love.
It’s about time courts — and others — grappled with the costs of cohabitation, delayed child-bearing and the rest of it. In a just world, unmarried women wouldn’t bear the entire cost of their depreciating fertility.
By the way, Alex, your invoice is in the mail.