Debate grows over reproductive rights

Updated: 2015-08-11 07:57

By Shan Juan(China Daily)

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Health risks

However, experts in assisted reproductive technology cautioned the public about the risks of egg freezing.

Usually, only 80 percent of the eggs frozen can be used after thawing, and they are more difficult to fertilize, said Zhang Qiaoli, a physician in the Department of Human Reproductive Medicine at Beijing Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital.

Also, the egg retrieval process can cause pain and harm to the pelvis and abdomen, she warned.

The long-term family planning policy in China, restricting most couples to just one child, and a tradition that favors boys are also concerns for the government about making egg freezing widely available to all, said Lu, the Peking University professor.

"As we all know, men's fertility is much longer than it is for women," he explained. "Unregulated egg freezing might lead to ovum trading and surrogacy."

Li, the Beijing sociologist, suggested that women think about the issue carefully before making a decision.

"It's more than a medical issue, it's a more complicated social problem," she said.

Lu said that to date, China has no culture of accepting - or institutions to support - single mothers and babies born outside of marriage.


Wu Xia and her baby, born out of wedlock, have recent firsthand experience of the barriers they face.

Having a Master of Business Administration degree from prestigious Northwestern University in the US state of Illinois, Wu, 32, broke up with boyfriend Shen Bolun, a 26-year-old photographer in Beijing, in February. Wu was 17 weeks' pregnant at the time, and the two decided to welcome their child.

"Marriage and reproduction are separate issues. Without the bond of love anymore, the relationship should be ended," she said.

A marriage that is not working won't do the child any good either, she added.

The decision turned out to be a tough one.

As a single mother, Wu could not have her medical bill for childbearing covered by her health insurance.

Later, when she tried applying for a hukou for her newborn, she was required to hand in the medical examination proving that Shen is the biological father. She also had to pay a social maintenance fee.

Usually, such a fee is set to punish childbearing that does not comply with the family planning policy. "But it's the first child for both of us," Wu said.

To defy that and gain public attention, the two turned to a crowdfunding website to ask for donations to cover the fee of 40,000 yuan ($6,440), on June 21, when their baby was born.

"It's not that we cannot pay the fee on our own," Shen said. "We think it's unfair, and by crowdfunding, we wanted to gain public attention to begin a discussion about the issue. Reproduction shouldn't be attached only to marriage."

Debate grows over reproductive rights

Wu agreed. "It's cruel and unfair for a newborn to face so many challenges due to its coming into the world outside of a marriage," she said.

Their appeal for donations was deemed too controversial and was pulled off the website after 16 hours, by which time donations of more than 10,000 yuan had been collected.

Public opinion around the situation turned out to be polarized.

Some denounced their request as purely media hype, noting that the two could in fact afford to pay the fee.

Others expressed their sympathy toward the newborn and the unmarried parents.

"The parents were true to the fact that their relationship was no longer working. Why does the government have to set so many barriers for the baby and the parents?" wrote a netizen called Xiaowan.

Ke Han, a child psychology doctoral student, said that care, respect and sound financial support for children matter more than a complete family.

"All children should be treated equally, no matter what," she said. "Since they form the country's future, the government should give more support to needy ones like those raised by single mothers."


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