Women in Quebec who are over the age of 40 and hoping to have a child via in vitro fertilization may soon be racing against not only their body’s own biological clock, but also one imposed by the provincial government as well.
In a controversial move, Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette tabled a bill last week that, if passed, will prohibit women over the age of 42 from having access to in vitro fertilization treatments (IVF) — even if they use their own eggs that were frozen when they were younger or use a donor’s younger eggs.
While the main purpose of the bill is said to lessen the financial strain on Canada’s healthcare system, a particular section of the bill seems to have been included for an entirely different purpose. Many feel that the Quebec government is not only trying to save dollars, but eggs.
The proposed bill comes just weeks after the province revealed it would begin drastically scaling back its publicly funded assisted-reproductive services. If passed, the bill’s new rules limit IVF to women left infertile by medical treatments such as chemotherapy.
While the reasoning behind the IVF age limit have not been entirely public, it seems the province is attempting to reduce costs to the healthcare system from women attempting pregnancy at an advanced age.
Women over the age of 40 attempting pregnancy have a greater risk of developing pre-eclampsia — high blood pressure during pregnancy — compared to women in their 20s and early 30s. In addition, they also have higher instances of requiring delivery via caesarean section.
However, the changes are being met with criticism and have sparked intense, heated debate.
While many agree that women over 40 are at a higher risk of pregnancy complications, healthcare costs to treat such complications are typically modest. In addition, the number of older women in Quebec who undergo IVF is small. Many feel the decision is personal, and should be made in consultation with a fertility specialist, not dictated by the government.