by Katie Kraschel
Mitt Romney’s anecdote about the binders of women he relied upon in selecting members of his cabinet when he was Governor has fueled criticism from feminist groups and filled my Facebook feed with a plethora of Halloween pictures featuring costumes depicting his unfortunate choice of words. People generally have an instinctive aversion to being summarized into a page in a loosely bound, plastic-covered book. However, this level of summary and (arguably) downright objectification happens every day when individuals peruse IVF clinic and cryobank catalogs shopping for sperm or eggs. And while many of us worry that a Romney win next week would result in four years of presidential leadership that is clueless and insensitive to the plight of women in the workforce, the ASRM decision to remove the experimental label from oocyte cryopreservation is likely to literally increase the number of “women in binders,” which presents a different set of concerns.
Oocyte retrieval — the process of harvesting eggs that allows a woman to place her age, weight, height, eye color, S.A.T. score, college major, baby picture and perhaps even celebrity look-a-like into a gamete catalog — has long been a topic of bioethical debate and criticism due to the risks associated with the high level of hormones involved in the process and the accompanying high level of compensation frequently offered for women’s eggs. The likely increases in demand and number of oocytes produced presents a unique opportunity to revisit these issues and reconsider what regulations may be necessary to keep all parties involved respected and protected.