Unmarried Chinese woman sues hospital for refusing to freeze her eggs

Phoebe Zhang

In the first legal battle of its kind in China, a Beijing woman is suing a hospital for refusing to freeze her eggs because she could not provide a marriage certificate.

Freelance writer Teresa Xu Zaozao, who is not married, has taken Beijing Obstetrics and Gynaecology Hospital of Capital Medical University to court for turning her down because of her marital status.

“I want to use the new technology to save my eggs while I am in my prime,” Xu said. “[If this happens], it will give me and my parents a greater sense of assurance.”

The case at Chaoyang District People’s Court was expected to continue after an adjournment on Monday.

For many women, going overseas for the service is not an option. Photo: AFP

Xu, 31, a prolific writer on gender issues, said she consulted a gynaecologist at the hospital a year ago but was told that she was not eligible because she was not married.

More younger women are freezing their eggs because the quality and quantity of eggs deteriorate as women get older.

The government has gradually lowered barriers for unmarried women wanting to have children. Until 2016, the children of unmarried women were often denied a hukou, or urban residency that determines access to public education and health care.

Pay-as-you-freeze egg storage cuts IVF costs for career women

While policy or administrative restrictions have been removed as China’s population ages, the National Health Commission continues to ban unmarried women from assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilisation and egg freezing offered by Chinese hospitals and agencies.

Sperm banks also still do not accept their applications but men can choose to freeze their sperm, even if they are not married.

Public debate about the issue took off in 2015, when film star Xu Jinglei revealed that she had visited the United States for an egg freezing procedure two years earlier.

The plaintiff in the Beijing case says reproductive services for unmarried women may not be the same across China. Photo: Corbis

Teresa Xu Zaozao said she did not know “the doctor would respond to me in this way”.

“I knew about the national policy, that it’s not open to unmarried women, but Jilin province had a regulation opening it up to unmarried women in 2002, so I thought there might be differences among the regions,” she said.

Northeastern Jilin amended its policies in 2002 to allow unmarried women of legal marriage age to use assisted reproductive technologies to have a child.

Xu said she knew a number of unmarried women who had similar needs, but getting their eggs frozen overseas was too expensive. If China opened up the technology to unmarried women, they would consider using it, she said.

“It’s already half the battle to be able to take the case to court and be at the centre of public attention,” said Yu Liying, Xu’s lawyer.

Why single women in China use foreign sperm to have babies

Xu tried to have the case filed as a medical dispute but she was not successful, Yu said.

Lawyer and client are now taking the hospital to court for “infringement of an individual’s rights”, arguing that egg freezing was part of unmarried women’s reproductive rights.

In a letter to the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature, Xu urged it to consider relaxing the policies concerning reproductive rights and egg freezing. The NPC is expected to hold its annual session in March.

“Updating the policies is long overdue and they do not reflect the changing times,” Xu wrote.

More from South China Morning Post:

This article Unmarried Chinese woman sues hospital for refusing to freeze her eggs first appeared on South China Morning Post

For the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2019.