The Paradox of Regulating Reproduction for Family Values

Cheered on by Carol McDonald from Planned Parenthood Federation of America, women rally on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursd
Cheered on by Carol McDonald from Planned Parenthood Federation of America, women rally on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 11, 2013, to oppose legislation that would limit legal abortion. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

When will we stop trying to control how and when women can reproduce? Every time we do, we seem to work against our goal to promote healthy, happy and intact families.

China, which for decades implemented a one child policy that included forced sterilization and forced abortions, finally relaxed this policy, and then went on to enforce an equally absurd regulation preventing women from freezing their eggs without a husband's approval. (Supposedly to support the institution of marriage?)

When a Chinese film actress and director took charge of her own fertility options, she ignited a debate around whether unmarried women could freeze their eggs.

This begs the question: why on earth would a married woman ever freeze her eggs? If she is married, she can use her husband's sperm to freeze embryos, which survive freezing more reliably. As an infertility specialist, it would be hard to recommend freezing eggs over embryos, unless a woman wanted to preserve her options to make a baby with someone other than her husband.

Ironically, this "pro-marriage" legislation does the exact opposite. It encourages married women to keep their options open to find another partner (or sperm source) and prevents women who are deliberately waiting to find their soul mate from maximizing their fertility options. It doesn't make sense.

Across the pond, in the United States, we have a similar paradox. Opponents of abortion are rallying to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, an organization that may have done more than any other group to prevent abortions by providing information and contraceptives. Whether you support choice or oppose abortion, fabricating Planned Parenthood's activities is not the way to make change. They simply don't sell fetal tissue, period. Only 10 percent of Planned Parenthood's funds go toward providing safe abortions with no public funds. Planned Parenthood is making progress to reduce unplanned pregnancies and the subsequent decision many make to pursue an abortion. Surely preventing this scenario in the first place is a shared goal.

If you support the goal that most interests me, helping women achieve safe and healthy pregnancies, then perhaps we should spend more energy on providing women with more options, not less. Whether you are in China or the United States, whether its contraception or egg freezing, men should not limit a woman's right to manage her body and take charge of her fertility. Such reproductive controls inevitably insult a women's right to choose.

As with most things, when women lead we usually all do better. It's about time for governments to stop interfering with a woman's right to determine how to manage her most precious gift, the ability to bring new life into the world.