A woman who is fighting for her chance to start a family is bringing the first legal challenge in the UK against fertility legislation that places a 10-year time limit on the storage of frozen eggs.
The woman paid to freeze her eggs in 2009 because she was not in a relationship, but hoped to have a baby in the future. However, fertility laws compel clinics to destroy frozen eggs after 10 years, irrespective of a woman’s age or wishes.
The 51-year-old woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, is seeking a judicial review aimed at overturning the time limit, which her lawyer argues is incompatible with human rights laws on private and family life.
“The time limit is arbitrary and isn’t science-based,” said the woman, whose eggs are scheduled to be destroyed in four months’ time. “It’s unfair to prevent women who have frozen their eggs from using them.”
The time limit has already been widely criticised by campaigners who argue that it is discriminatory. Fertility doctors have raised concerns that the current limit discourages 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 stored effectively for long periods of time, meaning the time limit mostly served to allow clinics to destroy samples that had no prospect of being used.
About a decade ago, clinics began to adopt a new freezing technique, called vitrification, that allowed eggs to be stored almost indefinitely without deteriorating. This prompted a steep increase in “social” egg freezing and means an increasing number of women are running up against the limit.
“I was one of the small group of women who were at the pioneering end of this,” said the woman. “When I did it there were hundreds of women having this done each year; there are now thousands. I’m fighting this – not just for myself, but for the next generation of women.” Read more