(Image via AP Photo/Richard Drew)
In an effort to keep young military enlistees from leaving to start a family, the Pentagon is going to start offering to freeze their eggs and sperm, the New York Times reports. According to the Military Times, nearly 72% of enlistees are 30 or younger—prime years for starting a family. Defense Secretary Ash Carter says freezing soldiers’ eggs and sperm—which will start as a two-year pilot program—will “provide greater flexibility for our troops who want to start a family.” He says it will also give soldiers facing injury “additional peace of mind."
As the New York Times notes: "Hundreds of veterans suffered injuries to their reproductive organs in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Having a store of frozen sperm or eggs on hand means a genital injury wouldn’t keep soldiers from having a baby.
But the program brings up a host of issues—both moral and financial. The military will have to deal with numerous ethical questions surrounding the preservation of reproductive materials, such as whether the wife of a soldier who dies in battle can then use his frozen sperm. And the procedure to freeze eggs, a relatively new science, can cost up to $10,000.
The Pentagon is still working out the details of the pilot program and estimates a cost of $150 million over five years. The program is part of the military’s “Force of the Future” initiative, which includes increased parental leave and child care. A major goal of the initiative is to increase retention among female enlistees. After 10 years of service, the number of women staying in the military is 30% lower than their male counterparts.
By Michael Harthorne