Between “medical” and “social” egg freezing: A comparative analysis of regulatory frameworks in Austria, Germany, Israel, and the Netherlands

Nitzan Rimon-Zarfaty*, Johanna Kostenzer, Lisa-Katharina Sismuth, Antoinette de Bont

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    12 Citations (Scopus)
    132 Downloads (Pure)


    Egg freezing has led to heated debates in healthcare policy and bioethics. A crucial issue in this context concerns the distinction between “medical” and “social” egg freezing (MEF and SEF)—contrasting objections to bio-medicalization with claims for oversimplification. Yet such categorization remains a criterion for regulation. This paper aims to explore the “regulatory boundary-work” around the “medical”–”social” distinction in different egg freezing regulations. Based on systematic documents’ analysis we present a cross-national comparison of the way the “medical”–”social” differentiation finds expression in regulatory frameworks in Austria, Germany, Israel, and the Netherlands. Findings are organized along two emerging themes: (1) the definition of MEF and its distinctiveness—highlighting regulatory differences in the clarity of the definition and in the medical indications used for creating it (less clear in Austria and Germany, detailed in Israel and the Netherlands); and (2) hierarchy of medical over social motivations reflected in usage and funding regulations. Blurred demarcation lines between “medical” and “social” are further discussed as representing a paradoxical inclusion of SEF while offering new insights into the complexity and normativity of this distinction. Finally, we draw conclusions for policymaking and the bioethical debate, also concerning the related cryopolitical aspects.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)683–699
    JournalJournal of Bioethical Inquiry
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


    • Austria
    • Cross-national comparison
    • Germany
    • Israel
    • Medical egg freezing
    • Regulation analysis
    • Regulatory boundary-work
    • Social egg freezing
    • The Netherlands


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