The Singapore National Day is celebrated by both local and overseas Singaporeans on 9 August every year, and this year, VICE had conducted a brief interview with several Singaporeans who are staying abroad about the current state of the nation and their hopes for the future.
One of the Singaporeans VICE spoke to was a woman named Melanie Ang, who is currently working as a lawyer.
The issue she raised focused on Elective Oocyte Freezing – egg freezing – for Singaporean women who consider motherhood but are not able to conceive yet due to various reasons such as wanting to thrive in career or finding a suitable partner.
Ms Ang expressed that as a woman who succeeds in her career in Singapore, she could not take motherhood into account.
Describing that Singaporean women could only choose either a family or a career, she pointed out how her friends who became mothers were “forced” to leave the workforce. Their concern was that balancing between a full-time job and being a mother was deemed difficult in Singaporean society.
“In Singapore, I was told that you can either have a family or a career, but not both. I’ve seen that with a lot of my friends who became mothers but were forced to leave the workforce because balancing a full-time job and running a household simply took a toll.”
The 35-year-old lawyer mentioned how she had only realised that she may want to start a family at this age after leaving her previous marriage and meeting her current partner. Noting that she wants to keep her options open and to be able to freeze her eggs, she pointed out that she is unable to do so in Singapore.
According to The Straits Times, egg freezing is only medically allowed in Singapore, leaving women who want to opt for social egg freezing to seek the service in other countries – such as Malaysia, Thailand, and Australia.
Ms Ang stressed that egg freezing is a “financial and social privilege”, as well as a “modern reproductive right”.
“Egg freezing is a financial and social privilege. It is also a modern reproductive right. It lessens a woman’s anxiety about having children by offering a sense of security and gives back reproductive control over women’s bodies. My body, my rights.”
She questioned why a world-class medical hub like Singapore would forbid women to freely freeze their eggs. She also criticised Singapore for being “traditional and outdated” when it claims to be a “modern society”.
“Why does our government think that it can dictate such an important life-changing decision by withholding the option from us? Singapore claims to be a modern society but traditional and outdated values are still very much deeply ingrained, even in our medical system and laws.”
Lastly, Ms Ang revealed that she is currently overseas with her partner and is not in a hurry to return to Singapore. She would take this opportunity to focus on herself and look into the option of freezing her eggs, regardless if she wants to become a mother.
“I will take this time away as a much-needed opportunity to focus on myself and my new life. I will also look into having my eggs frozen—whether I choose to become a mother or not.”
PAP’s Cheng Li Hui raised the issue of egg freezing in Parliament back in 2016; Government said last October it is “carefully” reviewing the possibility of egg freezing for non-medical reasons
Back in September 2016, the topic of egg freezing was raised in Parliament when Tampines GRC Member of Parliament Cheng Li Hui asked if the Ministry of Health (MOH) would consider allowing healthy women to opt for egg freezing so they could have a better chance to have children later in life.
In response, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong noted that other than the risk of complications from the procedure as well as the risks associated pregnancy at an older age, the Government would also have to consider the “social and ethical implications”.
“The expectation that egg freezing guarantees fertility preservation might not be met, thus resulting in greater disappointment for couples who delay marriage and parenthood and yet are later not able to conceive using this method. They will be left with few alternatives then.”
Later in October 2019, it was reported that the Government is “carefully” reviewing the possibility of women to freeze their eggs for non-medical reasons.