As part of its effort to make the US Department of Defense a more “family-friendly employer”, Secretary Ashton Carter has announced that the military will pay for storing eggs and sperm for its troops, as well as for more IVF treatment.
Women soldiers are at risk of missing out on their peak reproductive years by taking up a career in the military and men in combat risk damage to their reproductive organs. At a press conference at which he outlined measures ranging from creating 3,600 breast-feeding rooms to more IVF clinics, Carter explained the new policy on gamete storage:
"We can help our men and women preserve their ability to start a family, even if they suffer certain combat injuries. That's why we will cover the cost of freezing sperm or eggs through a pilot program for active duty service members -- a benefit that will help provide men and women, especially those deployed in combat, with greater peace of mind. This investment will also provide greater flexibility for our troops who want to start a family, but find it difficult because of where they find themselves in their careers."
The initiative will keep the Pentagon, one of the world’s largest employers, in step with large American corporations who are offering egg freezing in order to retain female talent.
However, the new policies have been poorly thought out, bioethicist Art Caplan, of New York University’s Langone Medical Center, told the New York Times:
“Freezing sperm and eggs is not like freezing chicken for dinner. What happens if you die — can your wife use it? And what if your mother wants grandchildren and your wife doesn’t, does that mean the sperm can be used with a surrogate? If you’re cognitively disabled, can it be used? And what happens if the company housing your sperm or eggs goes bankrupt?”
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