By Shannon Najmabadi
Image credit: @ejk.
On Monday, a Dongcheng clinic illegally offering assisted reproductive services was raided by the Beijing Health Bureau, according to China Daily.
The Dongcheng district clinic was registered to offer cosmetic medical services only. According to a CCTV report, however, the clinic charged one million yuan ($161,000) for assisting in the successful birth of a baby – more, if the parents wanted a boy. They also offered illegal gender diagnosis to guarantee the birth of a boy by a surrogate mother.
Speaking to China Daily, Wang Shuyu, an expert on assisted reproductive technology at Beijing Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital, warned of the health risks associated with black market reproductive services. She added that while the cost of assisted reproductive services in Beijing hospitals is low, however, as such hospitals don’t offer sex diagnosis, many couples turn to black market offerings instead.
As Quartz explains:
Anyone with an ultrasound machine and a ob-gyn textbook can get into the baby-scanning business. The gang profiled in the news report carried out ultrasounds, with the option of aborting then and there, in a minivan. Ultrasounds cost 800-1,200 yuan ($128-$193) and abortions cost 3,800 yuan. The local judge on the case noted that most of those performing these procedures had no medical licenses, and that legitimate medical institutions worked as middlemen, sending customers their way. The barriers to entry are fairly low since pretty much anyone can buy an ultrasound machine. In fact, one medical technology rep told the Global Times that they were his best-selling machine.
Earlier this month, four people were sentenced to between one and three years in prison for carrying out over 700 illegal ultrasounds and 15 gender-selective abortions in Zhejiang, according to the Global Times.
The gang was headed by Liu Ciwang and his wife Huang Xiaomiao. While neither had medical licenses, they charged 800 to 1,200 yuan per gender test and 3,800 for an induced abortion, which they conducted in minivans.
While the safety and legality of such practices is questionable at best, illegal gender testing and subsequent abortions also have social repercussions in China at large. China’s infamous one-child policy combined with the traditional preference for males and options to illegally abort female babies has created a disproportionate ratio of males to females: nearly 118 boys for every 100 girls in China.
Speaking to the Global Times, Zhai Zhenwu, a sociologist at Renmin University of China, said this gender imbalance may lead to a large number of Chinese men being unable to find wives and thus creating “social instability” and “[threatening] public order”.