The Progress Educational Trust (PET) has launched its #ExtendTheLimit campaign, asking the UK public to sign an online petition requiring Parliament to address the law on egg freezing time limits (see BioNews 1021).
Current legislation only permits women to store frozen eggs for a maximum of ten years, unless they have medically certified premature infertility. This means that women storing eggs for social reasons are often left with a difficult choice: becoming a parent before they are ready, using donor sperm to create embryos or discarding eggs - and possibly losing the opportunity for genetically-related children.
Sarah Norcross, director of PET – the charity that publishes BioNews – said the current limit was 'a very clear breach of human rights'.
'It is an arbitrary and outdated piece of legislation that does not reflect improvements in egg-freezing techniques and changes in society, which push women to have children later in life. It curtails women's reproductive choices, harms women's chances of becoming biological mothers, does not have any scientific basis (eggs remain viable if frozen for longer than ten years) and is discriminatory against women because of the decline in female fertility with age,' she told the BBC.
Women are recommended to freeze their eggs before they are 35 years old, as the quality and number of eggs tend to decline after this point – however, the average age of a woman freezing her eggs in the UK currently is 38-years-old.
Jane (a pseudonym), 45, froze over 20 eggs in 2009, and earlier in 2019 faced the destruction of her frozen eggs. She said: 'Being told my eggs would be destroyed was heart-breaking, heartless and massively upsetting. This was my only chance left of having a biological family. Then I got the stay of execution [ she was diagnosed with premature infertility, so her eggs can now remain frozen beyond ten years]; I wept and wept. I really feel for other women in this situation facing these terrible decisions – being forced to look at sperm donation or their eggs being destroyed; it's brutal.'
Professor Geeta Nargund, medical director of CREATE Fertility, told The Telegraph, that the ten year storage limit is 'now illogical and nonsensical' and was set 'many years ago when the risks of long-term storage of gametes and embryos were not known, and before modern vitrification, or "fast-freezing" technology was introduced'.
She also told Grazia: 'Egg-freezing methods have undergone a revolution over the last few years and the 10-year limit is holding egg-freezing back from the full emancipatory impact it could have.'
An HFEA spokesperson told the BBC: 'Whilst any change to the 10-year storage limit would be a matter for Parliament as it requires a change in law, the time might be right to look at what a more appropriate storage limit could be in future that recognises both changes in science and in the way women are considering their fertility.'
Once the petition reaches 100,000 signatures, the Government will have to debate the topic in Parliament. The online petition can be signed at https://tinyurl.com/extendthelimit.