When the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) announced last week that it has lifted its ban on the use of frozen eggs in fertility treatment, I expected a few columnists to make ill-formed, platitudinous observations about the news. But even I was surprised and, frankly, enraged by some of the comments made about women who might use egg freezing for reasons other than medical ones.
Some columnists seem to think that all they have to do when discussing reproductive technologies is to use the adjectives 'brave' and 'new' or mention 'career women' or 'babies in bottles' and - hey presto! - they've convinced their readers that the technology in question is unacceptable. Right? Wrong.
On its front page, the Daily Mail called the children born of egg freezing, 'babies of convenience'. Inside, Jacqueline Laing complained that we live in a world where women can have babies 'as and when they wish'. The sentiment here seems to be that deciding when and under what circumstances to have a child is somehow morally dubious. In the same article, Laing tells us that sometimes 'we all have to learn to live with life's bitter disappointments'. It's a simple morality tale: nature equals good, technology equals bad.
Of course it's easy to point to numerous examples - from modern medicine to jumbo jets - of our lack of deference towards the laws of nature. But it is particularly peculiar that nature should be so highly regarded in such an important sphere of human activity as reproduction. Modern society is so concerned with the welfare of children that you'd think careful planning of how, when and where a child comes into the world would be thought of as vital. After all, no-one thinks that unplanned teenage pregnancies are a good thing. Why, therefore, do those people not think that planned middle-age pregnancies are positively desirable?
The critics of egg freezing for social reasons seem to have missed the point about 'career women'. It is precisely because these women want to devote themselves to their children that they are considering egg freezing. Twenty years down the line, when they've achieved their career goals, when they have adequate resources and some experience of life, these women will be ready and willing to concentrate on having and rearing their children. You would think that those who consider career women to be unsuitable candidates for motherhood would be all in favour of their delaying childbirth until such time as they can put the needs of their children first.
As it happens, I think it's going to be a long time before egg freezing for social reasons takes off. It is an expensive, invasive procedure which offers little chance of success. A 45-year old women is more likely to conceive naturally than she is by egg freezing and IVF. But one day, this technology might be cheaper, easier and much more successful. What would be so wrong with women using science to avoid having a baby just because nature dictates it and instead to wait until their children are planned, prepared for and very much wanted?