A woman struggling for her chance to start a family in the United Kingdom is raising the first legal challenge to childbearing legislation, which limits frozen egg storage to 10 years.
The woman paid in 2009 to freeze her eggs because she was not in a relationship, but hoped to have a baby in the future. However, due to prevailing fertility laws, clinics are forced to destroy frozen eggs after 10 years, regardless of a woman's age or desires.
The 51-year-old woman, who wants to remain anonymous, is seeking a judicial review aimed at reversing the deadline that her lawyer considers incompatible with human rights laws for private and family life.
"The time limit is arbitrary and not science-based," said the woman whose eggs are expected to be destroyed in four months. "It's unfair to stop women who have frozen their eggs from using them."
The deadline has already been widely criticized by activists who consider themselves discriminatory. Fertility physicians have expressed concerns that the current limit is preventing women from freezing their eggs at a younger age when they are most fertile.
At the time the law was introduced, eggs could not be effectively stored for long periods of time, which meant that the deadline was mainly for allowing clinics to destroy samples that had no prospect of use.
About a decade ago, the clinics began to introduce a new freezing method known as vitrification, which allowed for almost unlimited egg storage without worsening. This has led to a sharp increase in the "social" freezing of eggs and more and more women reaching the border.
"I was a small group of women who pioneered here," the woman said. "When I did, there were hundreds of women doing this every year. There are thousands now. I fight against it – not just for myself, but for the next generation of women. "
The woman has launched a crowdfunding campaign to extend the 10-year egg-free storage limit to cover the legal costs required for a judicial review.
The number of women in the United Kingdom freezing their eggs has increased from less than 300 in 2010 to 1,300 in 2016, according to official figures. By 2015, however, there were fewer than 200 thaw cycles per year. This means that thousands of women have frozen eggs but do not need to use them, which means they may be affected by the deadline.
The limit is not intended to limit the maximum age at which women can take fertility treatment. This decision is made by clinics.
The London-based woman bringing the challenge would like to have the opportunity to use her eggs up to the age of 55, which most clinics in the UK would not accept as a patient. "A common myth is that women want their eggs until the '60s or' 70s," she said. "I know there will be a point in the next few years when I'll say," Enough is enough. I will know that I am too old. "
She said another myth is that women would freeze their eggs because they wanted "a lifestyle in a wine bar". The woman said, "This is a misunderstanding that needs to be exposed. Most people between the mid and late thirties have completed their education, have achieved career goals, are financially stable – all that is missing is a partner. "
Salima Budhani of Bindmans Law Office, representing the woman, said: "Since the adoption of the Human Fertilization and Embryology Act in 1990 by Parliament, it has changed significantly in the medical and social fields. The problems faced by women facing the memory barrier are clearly within the scope of the Human Rights Act, which protects the right to privacy and family life, and the unduly restrictive deadline is likely to be susceptible to challenges. "
A health ministry spokesman said, "The government has no plans to rethink this legislation."