Single woman sues hospital that refused to freeze her eggs because of her marital status in China
A Chinese woman is suing a hospital for refusing to help her freeze her eggs on the grounds that she is unmarried, in China’s first legal challenge to restrictions on single women’s reproductive rights.
Under Chinese law, couples must show a marriage licence in order to access assisted reproduction services.
Teresa Xu, 31, visited the Beijing Obstetrics and Gynaecology Hospital in November 2018, wanting to freeze her eggs while she focused on her career as a writer on gender issues, worried that her age would begin to affect her fertility.
On her first visit to the hospital for a check-up, Ms Xu says the doctor asked about her marital status and urged her to have a child now instead of freezing her eggs. During a second visit, the doctor told her she could not proceed.
“I came here for a professional service, but instead I got someone who was urging me to put aside my work and to have a child first,” she said. “I have already received a lot of this pressure in this society, this culture.”
The hospital declined to comment.
China’s rapid economic growth has allowed women to become financially independent, but social attitudes and government policies have not always kept pace. Authorities also spent decades trying to control population growth – even married women can only freeze their eggs under certain circumstances.
“The system has brought this difficult position for single women,” Ms Xu said.
She considered turning to an illegal clinic – ads for which were plastered over the women’s bathroom at the hospital, she claimed – but ultimately decided against it.
Those who can afford it can also circumvent China’s laws on fertility by going abroad. Ms Xu said it was too expensive, citing costs of around 100,000 yuan (£11,000) for treatment in Thailand, and 200,000 yuan for treatment in the United States.
The case is expected to last for several months. But “I personally feel that being able to arrive at this stage is already a sort of win,” she said after filing the suit on Monday.
“For me I didn’t feel like I was at court as an individual. I felt I was standing there with the weight of many other single women’s expectations.”
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