China’s ban on single women freezing their eggs has been a trending topic of discussion online ever since a famous Chinese actress admitted that she went to the US to carry out the procedure.
An explanatory article titled “China Does Not Allow Single Women to Freeze Their Eggs” has been making the rounds online after 41-year-old Xu Jinglei, known as one of China’s “Big Four Actresses”, announced that she had gone to the States and frozen nine of her eggs in 2013 as a “back up plan” in case she didn’t find a husband.
The report, released by CCTV on Sunday, has generated heated debate, amassing over 109,442 reposts, 31,815 comments and 13,715 upvotes within its first two days of publication.
China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission states that egg-freezing is only accessible to women who can provide an identification card, their marriage certificate and their “zhunshengzheng” (“Permission to Give Birth”), which can only be obtained with a marriage certificate. So, while single women can technically freeze their eggs, they are unable to have a child through artificial insemination because they cannot provide the required certificates.
In light of recent news about e-commerce giant Alibaba opening up a sperm bank, attracting over 2,000 applicants in just 72 days, many web users questioned why males are encouraged to donate sperm while single women are prohibited from freezing their eggs.
“We don’t even have control over own own ovaries anymore!” one web user wrote.
“Even in ancient times it was not illegal for women to be single moms – now there is family planning or a two-child policy, but you cannot control our wombs by the freezing eggs issue!” another netizen said.
The CCTV report highlighted various risks associated with such a procedure and explained that the limitations are designed to prevent illegal ova trade on the black market.
The debate boiled down to a familiar divide: while plenty of people argued that the benefits of rearing a child in a two-parent household should be enough to justify such a ban, others agreed that women should at least be able to make the choice on their own.
Manya Koetse of What’s on Weibo writes:
[A web user called] Zhao Lao Ai refers to a Zhihu message board on the issue, where lawyer Ji Hongwei says that he has not found any legal ground why freezing eggs should be illegal for single women. “After reading into the issue carefully,” the lawyer says: “I did not find any one of the conditions for ‘human assisted reproductive technology’ stating directly, or indirectly, that unmarried single women cannot make use of it.” The lawyer therefore wonders who is in charge of the Family Planning Commission, and on which law the conclusion is based that single women cannot have their own eggs inseminated.
The feminist group The Voice of Women’s Rights has issued a balanced and nuanced statement on Weibo, saying: “There are many social implications behind the pressure for women to bear children, and they cannot merely be solved through technical procedures. Freezing eggs is a costly and risky operation, with low success rates, and it does not necessarily brings women freedom in terms of child-bearing. However, it should be one of the options that women have.”
The ‘pro-women’ website All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF), on the other hand, ended its argument on the subject with a quote from a Fudan University gynecology doctor who said suggested that “that healthy women have children rather than store eggs as an ‘insurance policy.’”