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UK bill to reconsider egg-freezing time limits gets first reading

10 June 2019
Appeared in BioNews 1001

A bill that aims to extend the time limit that egg and sperm can be kept frozen has been introduced in the UK's House of Lords.

The Storage Period for Gametes Bill was introduced by Baroness Ruth Deech QC on 6 June 2019. It aims to address the ten-year storage limit for frozen eggs. The limit is increasingly becoming a problem as more women are reaching the limit and having to make difficult decisions about what to do if the time still is not right to start their family. 

'Under current legislation, women who froze their eggs for non-medical reasons and have now reached the ten-year storage limit are being forced into distressing and potentially financially crippling situations: to destroy their eggs and their chance of becoming a biological mother; to become a parent before they are ready to do so, either with a partner or as a solo mum via sperm donation; or to try to fund the transfer of their eggs to a fertility clinic overseas and have fertility treatment at a later date abroad,' said Sarah Norcross, director of The Progress Educational Trust (the charity which publishes BioNews).

The bill calls for a six-month review of the regulations governing gamete storage periods by the secretary of state, and proposes that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Statutory Storage Period for Embryos and Gametes) Regulations 2009 be amended so that gametes can be kept for more than ten years if the person for whose use they were frozen (usually the person whose gametes they are, or their partner) has not completed their family.

People who froze gametes before becoming infertile (for example through cancer treatment or gender transitioning) are already exempt from the ten-year limit. In either case, the person providing the gametes would have to give express consent in writing for storage of more than ten years.  

The issue disproportionately affects women as egg quality tends to decline more rapidly with age than sperm quality, but any change to the legislation could benefit people with frozen sperm as well as eggs. A woman who freezes her eggs age 25 would have to use or destroy them at 35, ready or not, under the current regulations. If she then wants children in her late 30s she might have to use donor eggs if her own are of poor quality.

'Numerous women now and many more in the future face the destruction of their frozen eggs, and their chances of becoming mothers, simply because of an arbitrary ten-year limit on storage. This bill is asking for a speedy review of that limit,' said Baroness Deech. 'Will the government show compassion, move to support these women's human rights and give them hope?'

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Bill urges Government to review egg freezing rules
De Montford University Leicester |  6 June 2019
Storage Period for Gametes Bill
UK Parliament |  6 June 2019
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