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Singapore moves towards lifting egg-freezing ban

Singapore has proposed lifting a long-standing ban on women freezing their eggs to have children in later life but campaigners Wednesday criticised the policy as not going far enough.

The work-obsessed city-state has long battled low fertility rates but with little success. Last year the rate stood at 1.12 babies per woman, compared to a global average of 2.3.

Women in many countries choose to freeze their eggs to give them a greater chance of having children in later life.

Under current rules in the socially conservative city-state, women can only do so for medical reasons, but calls have been growing for the policy to be loosened.

Policy guidance set out by the government this week proposes allowing women aged from 21 to 35 to freeze their eggs for non-medical reasons from next year.

It said authorities “recognise that some women desire to preserve fertility because of their personal circumstances.

“For example, those who are not able to find a partner while they are younger, but wish to have the chance of conceiving if they marry later.”

However, only legally married couples will be able to use their frozen eggs, it added, pointing to a policy of “upholding parenthood within marriage”.

Safeguards including counselling for those planning to freeze their eggs were also proposed to inform women about the risks and limitations of the procedure.

While welcoming the move overall, Shailey Hingorani, head of research and advocacy at women’s rights group AWARE, said it was “fairly limiting” due to the restrictions on age.

“Although pregnancies in older women tend to be at risk of complications, if a woman is fully informed about such risks, it should be her choice whether or not to try for a child,” she told AFP.

She also said that only permitting legally married couples to use frozen eggs excludes single women and lesbian or bisexual women in relationships who wish to be parents.

“It’s disappointing that the state continues to insist that there is only one model for a family nucleus,” she said.