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At what age should women try to start a family? Politicians tend to tread with the lightest of footfalls through such moral minefields, but Miriam Cates tackles the subject head-on.

‘The stats show if you are not a mother by 35 you have got only a one-in-four chance of becoming a mother. If you are not a mother by 30 you have got only a 50 per cent chance,’ she says.

She immediately clarifies that the figures don’t relate to the chances of becoming pregnant at that age when trying – it is the proportion of women who will go on to have children if they have not done so by then, for whatever reason.

‘There is a biological-possibility window, which for most people is 16 to 40, but we know after late 20s that the chances go down and down, so if you really want to be a parent then your best chance is sooner rather than later.’

This is not to suggest that Mrs Cates, a 41-year-old mother-of-three, is oblivious to the pressures on women to be financially secure before they start trying for children, she just believes that the Government should use more policy levers to help them juggle their responsibilities.

Miriam Cates (pictured) has argued women should have babies before it’s too late – and not be tricked into uselessly freezing their eggs

She has said that freezing your eggs 'doesn't work' and that only a tiny proportion of women that do will become pregnant

She has said that freezing your eggs ‘doesn’t work’ and that only a tiny proportion of women that do will become pregnant 

Mrs Cates, the co-chair of the powerful New Conservatives caucus of Right-wing MPs, is setting out her vision for the sort of policies which the struggling Tories should be offering to win back support.

If Rishi Sunak’s polling figures do not improve, her 7,200 majority in Penistone and Stocksbridge will vanish at the next election.

Mrs Cates, a former biology teacher, had her first child aged 25, when her husband David was working as a tech consultant.

She worries that women are being lulled into a false sense of security by the offer of freezing their eggs, or using other IVF procedures, to delay the decision into their late 30s.

‘Egg freezing doesn’t work,’ she says baldly. ‘A tiny percentage of people who freeze their eggs will ever become pregnant.

‘By the time women think about doing this, for obvious reasons they are thinking, ‘my biological clock is ticking, I’ve not met the right guy, I’m not ready to settle down’.

‘But, unfortunately, if you freeze your eggs after the age of 35 or so they are not good quality enough to likely result in a later pregnancy, and I think it is quite unethical for commercial companies to be targeting women.

Mrs Cates, a former biology teacher, had her first child aged 25, when her husband David was working as a tech consultant

She worries that women are being lulled into a false sense of security by the offer of freezing their eggs

She worries that women are being lulled into a false sense of security by the offer of freezing their eggs

‘There are some big corporations that will pay for women to do this, and I believe it is really exploitative because it’s saying we want to retain you in the workplace and so we will give you false promises.

‘When you see all these celebrities in the paper who have had a baby aged 47, it never says if it is surrogacy or IVF – or if they have been unbelievably lucky.’

The MP admits that given the plethora of factors involved in the decision there is not a ‘right’ age to settle on, saying: ‘The big factors for most women are do they have a partner that they want to be the father of their children and are they financially settled.

‘There are also some policy angles that the Government needs to work on, such as better housing, that could get the problems out of the way so that people can have the children they say they want.’

Mrs Cates, a Christian who has been called the ‘Mary Whitehouse of the Commons’ – after the 1970s morality campaigner because of the strong moral streak running through her political beliefs – says: ‘I think there is absolutely a role for people of religious faith in public life [but] Tony Blair was told not to ‘do God’ and he has not done so since then.’

The Scottish Government is also in Mrs Cates’ line of fire for spending hundreds of thousands running an advertising campaign pushing egg donation.

She says: ‘They are using taxpayers’ money to convince young women to go through what is a very traumatic and potentially dangerous process of egg donation without really explaining what this means – someone else will have your genetic child, and may be identifiable to that child when they are 18. 

Egg donation means months of hormone injections, having your ovaries inflated and a quite traumatic internal process to remove those eggs. I think it is quite unethical for the Scottish Government to be doing that.’

Mrs Cates is also uneasy about the use of surrogate mothers, saying it is ‘not much thought about’ other than those ‘stories in a soap opera where somebody becomes a surrogate for her sister who’s infertile – that kind of thing’.

The MP admits that given the plethora of factors involved in the decision there is not a 'right' age to settle on (stock picture)

The MP admits that given the plethora of factors involved in the decision there is not a ‘right’ age to settle on (stock picture)

Mrs Cates is also uneasy about the use of surrogate mothers, saying it is 'not much thought about' other than those 'stories in a soap opera where somebody becomes a surrogate for her sister who's infertile (stock picture)

Mrs Cates is also uneasy about the use of surrogate mothers, saying it is ‘not much thought about’ other than those ‘stories in a soap opera where somebody becomes a surrogate for her sister who’s infertile (stock picture)

She says: ‘We think a lot about people who are infertile, people who desperately want to be parents and can’t, and of course I have every sympathy for people in that situation. 

But I think it is also really important to think about the baby’s rights and the baby’s welfare, and I don’t think that we think enough about what it means to actually take a baby off its mother at birth.’

Mrs Cates adds: ‘When the baby is born it knows its mother’s voice – it’s connected to its mother even if it’s not the mother’s genetic baby. 

‘The bits of the baby’s DNA stay in the mother for years and years and years – there is already a connection at birth. So taking the baby off that mother is not a neutral thing. I would always come down on the side of the most vulnerable party, which is the baby.’

Older children also need protecting, Mrs Cates believes, from the risks posed by smartphones, which she says could be mitigated by limiting the functions available to the under-16s.

She says: ‘No kid had a smartphone before 2010 and now pretty much every single secondary school-age child – and increasing numbers of primary school kids –have them, so I think we need to raise the age of social media accounts from 13 to 16.

‘Companies are developing hardware that looks like a smartphone but it doesn’t do all the things a smartphone does – you can see a map, you can buy a train ticket but you definitely can’t view porn.’

#era #theyre #increasingly #urged #put #career #family #Tory #motherofthree #Miriam #Cates #argues #women #babies #late #tricked #uselessly #freezing #eggs

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