by Dr Alexis Heng Boon Chin
In a recent parliamentary session on 25th February 2021, Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC Cheng Li Hui called for permitting social egg freezing in Singapore. At the same time, she also suggested banning women who remain unmarried from using their frozen eggs for IVF treatment, which is akin to sweeping the entire issue of “single motherhood by choice” under the carpet.
This is an intractable and tricky problem that is unlikely to go away. Because single women who freeze their eggs do so with the strong expectation of using these to conceive children in future, regardless of their future marital status.
Not every single woman who freeze their eggs can be expected to successfully find their “Mr. Right” in the future. Under such circumstances, banning unmarried women from using their own frozen eggs is bound to create much resentment and discontent in future, among those that remain single.
It is likely that such a group of disgruntled single women may band together to file a “representative action” or “class action” legal suit against the government to allow them to utilize their frozen eggs to become “single mothers by choice”. Worse still, there is a risk that such single women may even be compelled to enter ‘sham’ or ‘temporary’ marriages just for the sake of achieving their dream of motherhood with their frozen eggs.
A politically expedient solution that the government might possibly consider, is to discreetly allow single women to export their frozen eggs to overseas fertility centers for IVF with donated sperm, thus leaving an open backdoor to “single motherhood by choice”. But this is clearly unsatisfactory, because this would mean unclear and misaligned policy direction by the government on the issue of “single motherhood by choice”. Either permit it openly, or use all means to stop it from occurring.
Hence, it is imperative that there should be more extensive, open and honest debate on the issue of “single motherhood by choice”, when discussing whether or not to permit social egg freezing in Singapore.
Dr. Alexis Heng Boon Chin is a Singaporean who is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Science at Peking University, China. He had previously worked on IVF research in Singapore.