Leon M. and Gloria Plevin Professor of Law Browne Lewis participated in a panel discussion on reproductive technology at the Health Law Professors’ Conference held at Saint Louis University School of Law. Professor Lewis’ presentation dealt with the adverse impacts the lack of regulation of assisted reproductive technology has on women and children. In particular, Professor Lewis discussed the use of human oocyte cryopreservation (HOC).
In 2012, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine ASRM declared that HOC should no longer be considered to be experimental. Thus, that new reproductive technology provides a viable option for women seeking to preserve their fertility. Women who want to focus on their careers or those who have not let met “Mr. Right” may choose to have their oocytes frozen, so that they can defer motherhood. Other women are forced to have their oocytes frozen when faced with potential infertility as a consequence of medical treatment or military service. Women, men, and children may benefit from a technology that permits women to pause their biological clocks. If women do not have to worry about potentially becoming infertile, they can postpone motherhood until they are ready to parent. Unplanned pregnancies and infertility also negatively impact men. The availability of HOC will serve the best interests of children by permitting them to be born to parents who want them and who are able to care for them. Persons oppose to the use of HOC are concerned about the safety of the woman, the oocyte and the resulting child. Based upon the low percentage of live births resulting from the use of cryopreserved oocytes, opponents also argue that it is unethical to give women false hope. Those persons advocate banning the use of HOC or limiting it to use by women who are of child-bearing age. However, bans or strict restraints on the availability of HOC may infringe on a woman’s reproductive freedom and violate her right to be treated the same as a similarly situated man.