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RJ Tech Talk: Egg Freezing

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October 29, 2014

As new technology is being developed for reproductive health, many questions come up as to how each product can fit into the framework justice. Technology’s impact on gender, sexuality, and reproductive choices has vastly expanded over the past fifty years. I’ve chosen to explain oocyte cryopreservation, or egg freezing, one tech product I’ve been seeing in the media a lot and provide links to other sources that talk about its use within reproductive justice, controversial or not.

Oocyte cryopreservation, also known as egg freezing, is a procedure where a woman’s oocytes (eggs) are extracted, frozen, and the preserved. The eggs can be thawed later on when the person wants to become pregnant, transferred after fertilization to the uterus as embryos.

Recently, egg freezing has been in the news because Facebook and Apple have decided to include egg freezing coverage into their employees perks packages. The companies have agreed to cover the costs of the procedure, if any of their female employees want it. At such a high cost, it has caused many news outlets to call into question whether this care is really beneficial for female employees or if it is just reinforcing cultural ideologies that women have to make a choice between work and family.

As Samantha Allen for the Daily Beast writes, “inclusion of egg freezing coverage could create a culture of expectation for women surrounding its use.” Many other journalists have taken a similar stance arguing that this corporate move puts even more pressure in on women in male dominated tech industries to delay childbirth.

Here are some links to other articles and opinions on egg freezing and tech companies:

RH Reality Check

Huffington Post

New York Times

Wired

The Nation

Apple wrote in their statement that, “We continue to expand our benefits for women, with a new extended maternity leave policy, along with cryopreservation and egg storage as part of our extensive support for infertility treatments…We want to empower women at Apple to do the best work of their lives as they care for loved ones and raise their families.” Egg freezing can be empowering and beneficial for people with ovaries who want to wait to have children, but when companies are offering it, their motives come into question.

This is just one technology that I’ve been seeing in the news a lot lately. Although I only explored egg freezing here, new tech is constantly being developed for reporting sexual assault, protecting victims of domestic violence, and treating HIV.

Technology will never be able to completely destabilize oppressive power structures that work against reproductive justice. That being said, by reproductive justice technology can help people tangibly express the multitude of genders, sexualities, and reproductive ideologies that exist. Issues between technology and social justice raise a lot of controversy. The base problem is not always solvable with technology and the nature of solutions can be complicated. Technology can have unintended consequences that are unjust, but it also can have the potential of huge health benefits, both physically and mentally.

How do you think justice movements can benefit from technological developments? How can technology help people to rethink politics? What is empowering about these technologies? What is controversial?

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