he Beijing Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital, Capital Medical University, refused to provide egg-freezing services for Xu Zaozao (pseudonym), a single, unmarried female, because of legal concerns. Xu took the case to the court, and a local district court in Beijing heard the case on December 23, the first of its kind in China.
At present, China does not have a law that uniformly regulates artificial reproductive technology, but a patchwork of regulations by the health administration, wrote Wang Wenna, a legal expert, in Shanghai-based news portal The Paper. And these regulations do not include clear stipulations on whether single, unmarried females have the right to freeze their eggs.
Regarding the view that the “Human Assisted Reproductive Technology Standards” issued by the former Ministry of Health in October 2003 denies such a right, Wang argued that the regulation only bans human-assisted reproductive technology for single, unmarried ladies.
Wang cited the definition of such technology from the “Administrative Measures on Human Assisted Reproductive Technology” released in February 2001, which is “the process of removing eggs from a woman, culturing it in a vessel, and adding a technically processed sperm. After the egg is fertilized, continue the culturing, until the early embryo is formed – then it will be transferred to the intrauterine bed and developed into a fetus until delivery.” This kind of technology does not include egg-freezing, she said.
The expert further noted that the right to freeze eggs does not contradict the ban on human-assisted reproductive technologies for single, unmarried ladies. Hong Kong and Germany, for example, differentiate the two concepts in their respective legal systems.
Wang took the opportunity to talk about whether women are legally permitted to donate eggs. While prohibiting organizations and individuals from recruiting donors in any form for commercial egg supply, the country limits egg donation to the remaining eggs in the human assisted reproduction therapy cycle, which, Wang said, is relatively loose.
And a legal problem that might result from this is that women who receive egg donations as fertility mothers are not genetic mothers. There is no provision in China’s Marriage Law to specify who is a mother in the legal sense and who has custody. In addition, egg donation and surrogacy must be distinguished.
As human-assisted reproductive technology develops, the identification of parent-child relationships will become more complicated. Wang hopes that the Civil Code, which is being revised, responds to these controversial issues, and citizens’ reproductive rights should not be determined by technical specifications.