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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?'

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
11 November 2019 - by Eleanor Taylor 
Over the last decade the number of women who have opted to freeze their eggs for social reasons has risen exponentially...
9 September 2019 - by Rachel Siden 
Following the viral Facebook post of an Egyptian woman who announced that she had frozen her eggs, Egypt's Islamic legislature Dar Al-Ifta announced that egg freezing is permissible within Islam under certain conditions...
18 March 2019 - by Martha Henriques 
A group of women is bringing the UK's first legal challenge to the ten-year limit on preserving frozen eggs...
18 March 2019 - by Dr Yvonne Collins 
A survey by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has found that 44 percent of women aged 18-24 would consider freezing their eggs in the future...
25 February 2019 - by Salima Budhani and Theodora Middleton 
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 requires that human gametes (eggs and sperm) and embryos collected and stored by fertility clinics be destroyed after ten years, except in cases of premature infertility. This time limit applies to women often referred to as 'social' egg freezers irrespective of the age of the woman when the ten-year limit is reached; it applies equally to women who froze eggs when aged 25 and those who froze eggs at 45...
28 January 2019 - by Dr Katie Howe 
Fertility experts are campaigning for the UK government to review current legislation which means women who freeze their eggs must use them within 10 years...
7 January 2019 - by Eleanor Taylor 
It has been ten years since the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Act was updated in 2008. Over the past ten years the laws governing fertility treatment and legal parenthood have remained largely static. But society has continued to evolve at a rapid pace...
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