Landmark case of unmarried woman suing to freeze eggs heard in Chinese court

·2-min read
Teresa Xu prepares to attend a court session at the Chaoyang People's Court in Beijing (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Teresa Xu prepares to attend a court session at the Chaoyang People's Court in Beijing (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The landmark first legal challenge in China against a law that limits fertility treatments to married couples only was heard in court on Friday.

Teresa Xu, 33, filed a lawsuit against a hospital in Beijing in 2019 after the doctors refused to freeze her eggs citing a national law.

Mr Teresa, who has a history of women’s rights activism, said that she had been waiting for a second hearing in the case where the deadline of decision is important.

"From 2018 until now, it’s been three years, and my eggs are getting older with me, and the deadline is more and more pressing," Ms Teresa said

The case would be heard for a second time at the Chaoyang People’s Court in Beijing after getting continually delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"I hope that the signal it sends about needing population growth will allow single women the opportunity to be able to make their own choice," Xu told reporters in front of the court.

The judgement in the case is seen as a defining moment for reproductive rights of unmarried women in China demanding. For decades, China has been known to impose strict birth control policies to control the population.

China had imposed a "one-child" policy. It eased the restrictions slightly in 2015 to replace it with a universal two-child policy, although that did not change the overall slowing of population growth.

In 2021 again, Beijing announced three-child policy allowing couples to have three children after a steep decline in birth rates.

Her case is getting heard at a time when latest census data showed declining population growth and increasing in the proportion of elderly people. There has been a constant decline in the number of babies born every year since 2016.

According to national level statistics, 12 million babies were born in 2020, in a 18 per cent decline from 14.6 million in 2019.

Ms Teresa decided to mount a legal challenge after visited Beijing Obstetrics and Gynaecology Hospital in 2018 where she asked the doctors to freeze her eggs.

She was instead asked by a doctor to put aside her work and have a child first. The hospital also asked to see her marriage license. The hospital in a statement said that they were complying with a government regulation.

She had briefly considered going abroad like popular Chinese actress Xu Jinglei, who visited to the US to freeze her eggs. But Ms Teresa said expenses are upto $31,000 (£22,467), too high for her to pursue.

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