Women without partners will soon be able to freeze ova for later use
Women without partners w
By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
Women aged 30 to 40 who have no partner but want to conceive once they do, will be permitted, in up to half a year, to have ova removed and frozen until they are ready to become mothers.
This major change in Health Ministry regulations will take place following new recommendations by the National Bioethics Council, presented this week to ministry director-general Dr. Eitan Ha'am.
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 in-vitro fertilization (IVF). The recommendations have been sent to Mira Hibner, the ministry's legal adviser, who will prepare detailed rules for the procedure.
"This is a breakthrough," Hibner told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, "and we believe it will reduce the demand for donated ova, which are in very short supply. But the ministry will have to 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, quite a number are religious women who have not found husbands yet and don't want to wait until their ova are "too old" to produce healthy babies.
Meanwhile, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel for a government bill - more than a decade in the making due to ethical, medical, legal, commercial and halachic complications - to allow and regulate the donation of ova to women suffering from infertility.
Deputy Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman - who promised the Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee that he would do his "utmost" to find a solution to the problem - told Hibner he would present the bill to the Ministerial Committee for Bill Continuity within 60 days. Since the bill already passed its first reading in the Knesset, approval from the committee would mean the process does not have to start all over again. It was brought up in the previous Knesset for its second and third reading after receiving support from a wide variety of rabbinical arbiters, but United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni opposed it at the last minute.
A few years ago, gynecologist and fertility expert Prof. Zion Ben-Raphael, then of the Rabin Medical Center, was convicted of "stealing" extra eggs from his patients without their knowledge. He was found to have overstimulated their ovaries with drugs so that they would produce an excess of ripe eggs for extraction. That case led to action on the government bill and discouraged many women from giving eggs for altruistic reasons, as well as discouraging women undergoing treatments from donating unneeded ova.
More recently, the serious lack of donor ova resulted in Israelis going abroad to buy ova and in some Israeli fertility specialists setting up a business in Romania. There, they allegedly sold ova collected from poor Romanian women to infertile Israeli women who flew there for treatment. The doctors were arrested but have since been allowed to return home.
Litzman was spurred to action by MKs Rachel Adato (Kadima) and Arye Eldad (National Union), who presented the same wording as a private member's bill to enable ova donation not only from altruistic women undergoing fertility treatments, but also from those not undergoing treatments who want to donate and be given compensation for the time and discomfort they invest in donation.
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