More single women can now freeze ova

Some rabbinical arbiters oppose Health Ministry move, while others – especially in national religious sector – reluctantly go along.

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January 18, 2011 06:56
3 minute read.
UNTIL NOW, only teenage girls and women undergoing

Freezing Ova 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

From now on, women aged 30 to 41 who lack partners are able to have up to 20 of their healthy eggs frozen and stored at their own expense in hospital fertility unit ova banks for later use.

The Health Ministry issued for publication on Tuesday the rules and regulations it set down to allow this procedure.

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The ministry also determined rules for allowing fertile women of all ages whose eggs could be destroyed by medical treatment to freeze them as well for use after their recovery.

Until now, only teenage girls and women undergoing chemotherapy or other treatments that destroy ova have been allowed to have the procedure done – at state expense – so they can eventually become pregnant through invitro fertilization (IVF). This major change in Health Ministry regulations went into effect following recommendations last year by the National Bioethics Council that were turned into legal stipulations by Mira Hibner, the ministry’s legal adviser.

The freezing of human eggs for medical reasons includes carriers of the Fragile X premutation; women with signs of early menopause, autoimmune diseases or chromosomal syndromes; candidates for preventive surgical removal of the ovaries; or women due to undergo surgery that involves ovary removal. The basket of health services pays for egg removal, freezing and storage of eggs from such women.

Women who want to freeze their eggs at their own expense for nonmedical reasons are expected largely to be religious women who for halachic reasons do not want to get pregnant at the moment with donated sperm but are waiting for “the right man to appear.”

If he doesn’t arrive, they can use them to try to become pregnant with a sperm donation.

According to the new regulations, the ova can be defrosted for IVF until the woman reaches a maximum age (at present) of 54 years. Every five years, those with frozen ova have to inform the IVF center where their eggs are being kept that they want them to remain there. If the hospital is not informed, the eggs will be destroyed, but women with ova deposits can donate them to other women who want to get pregnant if the two meet ministry criteria.

The ministry regulations do not prevent lesbian women aged 30 to 41 from freezing their eggs, said Hibner, as any woman in the stipulated age group who fills out a form applying for the arrangement can undergo the procedure.

The cost of freezing and storing eggs for nonmedical reasons “will not be cheap – it will be in the thousands of shekels – but cheaper than if done abroad,” said Hibner.

IVF units in all the country’s general hospitals will have to inform the ministry of the number of such arrangements and the number or pregnancies and deliveries achieved with them.

Hibner last year told The Jerusalem Post that “we believe it will reduce the demand for donated ova, which are in very short supply. The ministry will prepare posters to explain to women that storing ova for later use will not guarantee that they will become pregnant, as success rates are far from 100 percent.”

The legal adviser predicted that women who were busy with a career and wanted to get pregnant later would not be a significant group among those getting the procedure done. In fact, a relevant sector will be single religious women who have not found husbands yet and don’t want to wait until their ova are “too old” to produce healthy babies.

Some leading rabbinical arbiters have opposed single women freezing eggs, while other prominent ones – especially in the national religious sector – have reluctantly agreed to it. At the recent conference of the Puah Institute for Fertility According to Halacha, Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dov Lior (who is national religious) said women are not – unlike men – halachicly obliged to have children.

“If a child is born without a father figure, there can be negative characteristics; this is not the solution.”

If they don’t find a proper match, they can always adopt an existing child, he suggested.

He suggested that the institute would be well advised to set up a nonprofit matchmaking service to help women in their 20s and 30s to find a mate.

But Puah founder and director Rabbi Menachem Burstein has been quoted as saying that while it was preferable for women to marry and then get pregnant the natural way, it was better to freeze one’s eggs and wait for a husband than to use a sperm donation to produce a baby when single.


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