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16Mar, 16

The military is the pointy end of the spear defending our country. Now, it appears that the military will be on the cutting edge of reproductive technology and family building as well.

In an effort to promote retention among midlevel service members and to allow the Department of Defense to compete effectively with top level private companies, DOD has instituted a two year pilot program that will pay for troops to have their reproductive cells preserved.

DOD was not the first employer to offer egg freezing as an employee incentive. In 2014, Facebook and Apple began offering to pay for the procedure for women who choose it to delay childbearing. The costs for the retrieval and freezing procedures range from $10,000 to $20,000.

The New York Times reported on February 3, 2016, that “the initiative … raises legal and ethical questions that Defense Department officials will have to navigate.” The Times quoted Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center: “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?”

When embryos are formed, the questions become even more complex and the answers even more unpredictable. Are they property? Who owns the embryos? What happens if we get divorced? Who has authority to decide what happens to them? If there was an agreement, is it enforceable? What if one party has died? What if the parties disagree on the disposition of the fertilized eggs?

There are more questions than answers. The option to freeze eggs, sperm, and embryos allows delaying implementing a decision on family building. It also allows avoiding making any decision at all. Sometimes delaying the decision effectively forecloses options. Sometime it just creates more questions.

One thing is fairly certain, the failure to plan leads to unintended consequences.

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