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Friday, October 17, 2014

Freezing Eggs

For John, BLUFWhat DO women want?  No one knows?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Over at the Althouse blog we have comments on an article titled "Egg Freezing as a Work Benefit?  Some Women See Darker Message."  The Reporter is Ms Claire Cain Miller, of The New York Times.

Professor Althouse leads off:

I hadn't quite yet gotten around to blogging about this new work benefit, which we've just heard is getting under way at Apple and Facebook, and already "some women" have not only detected a "darker message," they've gotten their message out to the general public.  "Some women" are always getting the jump on me.  I had my perceptions — not dark, but optimistic — and I voiced them, within the confines of this house, and I can't believe that even as I blog so consistently and so earnestly and I'm ever-ready to catch new issues like this and put my opinions instantly right out there on the internet, that "some women" beat me to the punch... if one is allowed to use that expression in this woman-friendly world anymore.
Reporter Miller writes and Professor Althouse quotes:
For women whose circumstances have made it unrealistic to have a baby and who are considering egg freezing, the new benefit is likely to be a highly welcome surprise — even if in some sense it may seem a logical extension of employee-sponsored health plans that already cover pregnancy, childbirth and some infertility treatments.

Yet workplaces could be seen as paying women to put off childbearing.

Here is the nut of the problem as laid out by Reporter Miller:
Yet by paying for women to delay pregnancy, are employers helping them achieve that balance — or avoiding policies that experts agree would greatly help solve the problem, like paid family leave, child care and flexible work arrangements?

“Egg freezing seems to put a Band-Aid on the problem of how difficult it is for women to have a career and raise a family concurrently,” Seema Mohapatra, a health care law and bioethics expert, wrote in August in a Harvard Law & Policy Review article titled “Using Egg Freezing to Extend the Biological Clock: Fertility Insurance or False Hope?”

Professor Althouse asks:
Isn't that what the required coverage of birth control also does? Or is the coverage of birth control not really an incentive to put off childbearing, but a trick to ease women unwittingly into a life of childlessness? I hadn't thought so.  And if women need to use the young part of their lives to get educated and to advance their careers without sidetracks and distractions, then egg-freezing is exactly the benefit that supports workplace equality.

Women who choose to have babies earlier could be stigmatized as uncommitted to their careers.  Just as tech company benefits like free food and dry cleaning serve to keep employees at the office longer, so could egg freezing, by delaying maternity leave and child-care responsibilities.

But this stigma is already there to the extent that it is, and birth control (not to mention abortion) empowers women to show their commitment to their career by putting off pregnancy.

We need some consistence here.  What do women want?

Hat tip to Ann Althouse.

Regards  —  Cliff

1 comment:

Craig H said...

This recalls recent furor over "abortion" benefits that are more the construction (hallucination?) of overzealous polemicists reading possibility into what may or may not be covered on a health plan sold to an employer in order to be offered to their employees, than they are reasonable representations of common sense or fact. Truth is, health plans are constructed by actuaries to provide the greatest amount of attractiveness to customers--cost vs. benefit--ostensibly by figuring out which procedures are "cheap" compared to what they would have to charge in premiums to cover them. Egg freezing, apparently, satisfies such math by being relatively inexpensive compared to the attention it might receive, and all these blog posts and articles prove it. However, and this is the important part, employers do not "design" these plans any more than you or I "design" the automobiles we choose to purchase, or, more relevant to say, the auto insurance policies we purchase to cover them. We take what the market offers, as do employers. (Employees are given the least choice and influence of all).

I know no woman who makes or would ever make a career decision based on the availability (or not) of an egg-freezing health benefit. I further know of no corporate benefits department that calculates coercion into their menu of benefits at this time every year. It's all about distracting employees to accept less for more, and if some health insurance salesperson is touting frozen eggs this year, it's because their customers have lost interest in the contraception or other specific reproductive healthcare benefits they offered last year. They (the benefits sales reps) are, after all, competing only against other benefit providers, who are trying to come up with equally splashy offers that enable employers to keep their costs low, and their employees deluded into thinking they're getting what they pay for.

If the question were at all about what women may want, I suspect Viagra would have ceased to be covered yesterday.