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PET launches egg freezing #ExtendTheLimit campaign

4 November 2019
Appeared in BioNews 1022

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'It is an arbitrary and outdated piece of legislation that does not reflect improvements in egg-freezing techniques and changes in society, which push women to have children later in life.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.

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE
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...
11 November 2019 - by Dr Catherine Hill 
The Progress Educational Trust's (PET's) #ExtendTheLimit campaign to extend the ten-year storage limit for social egg freezing gathered over 1000 signatures to its online petition in its first week...
4 November 2019 - by Eleri Williams 
The Progress Educational Trust (PET) event 'Trouble in Store? How Not to Break the Law when Storing Embryos and Gametes' took place at Hill Dickinson LLP in London on 29 October 2019...
28 October 2019 - by Dr Catherine Hill 
Increasing numbers of women in the UK are facing the stark choice of having to destroy their frozen eggs or become a mother before they are ready to do so because of an outdated law...
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...
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...
25 February 2019 - by Dr Yvonne Collins 
Baroness Nicola Blackwood, junior minister for innovation in the Department of Health and Social Care has acknowledged that there is a lack of evidence to back up the current time limit on egg freezing...
17 September 2018 - by Georgia Everett 
The age at which a woman freezes her eggs has a significant impact on IVF success when they are thawed, suggests a new report by the UK's fertility regulator...
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