So there I was, driving down the road, minding my own business, listening to NPR, and this story came on the radio. It's stayed with me. Or rather, the sense of shock I felt as I listed to it stayed with me. I wasn't surprised to hear that wealthy women in Manhattan are freezing their eggs, or that it's hard to get pregnant at 40. I was surprised at what I didn't hear: any mention of the ethical, economic, and health issues involved.
Now, I'm not an ethicist, so I'm not going to weigh in here except to say that the ethical issues around freezing eggs, surrogacy, IVF, etc. are real, and deserve to be taken seriously. I do think that well-meaning, intelligent people can come to different opinions about what is or is not ethical, but for heaven's sake, let's have the discussion, rather than pretend that there's not really a decision to be made here.
While we're discussing things, let's talk about the economic issues as well. I was absolutely floored to listen to a doctor advocate procedures that could very easily hit $40,000 to be standard for women in their twenties. Who can afford that? How can she afford it? To whom, precisely, is all that money going? Also, that is a LOT of money; what are the ethics involved with spending it in such a way? People may certainly decide that this is an appropriate use of their financial resources. But what was staggering to me was how glib every single person in that story was about the cost. As far as I could tell, they were not actually talking about Monopoly money.
And now, while we're having meaningful discussions, let's talk about the long-term health effects of undertaking what is, essentially, a very unnatural process. We do all sorts of unnatural things with our bodies. I get it. In the best case, we make informed decisions about what we're going to do to our bodies, even if we periodically and unnaturally have cheeze puffs and skittles for dinner. But there are, surely, very significant potential health issues for both parents and child in undertaking this sort of procedure.
And all that leads us to Judith Shulevitz's "The Grayest Generation" in the latest New Republic. Shulevitz is concerned with the wider health issues around advanced parental age, particularly the challenges faced by children born to older parents. It's an interesting piece, and one that raises some fascinating problems... without proposing a single solution. The implied solution seems to be "just have babies already... or better yet, ten years ago." But Shulevitz makes a few fatal assumptions. First, she assumes that most people of childbearing age who want to have children are in stable relationships (or, second, if they're not, they're willing to have a child solo) and finally that potential parents are in stable economic circumstances.
In my world (single! graduate student living very close to the poverty line! 30 years old!), none of those assumptions are accurate. I am not in a stable relationship; I have a hard time going on a dinner date. There's absolutely. no. effing. way. I'd have a child on my own. Quite apart from the moral and ethical issues involved there, I live alone, hundreds of miles from extended family. And I, like so many people in my generation since 2008, am not wrapped in a cocoon of financial security.
So what, precisely, am I supposed to be doing?