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Chinese egg-freezing ban criticised

10 August 2015

The ban on single women freezing their eggs in China has been heavily criticised on social media after a Chinese actress revealed that she had travelled to the USA in 2013 to have her eggs cryopreserved.

Speaking about the decision, Xu Jinglei, who is well-known in China, stated: 'I was excited when I learned about egg freezing. I cannot marry a man I don't love, so this could give me more time to find the perfect man to be my baby's father.'

According to What's on Weibo, China's government does not allow unmarried women to cryopreserve their eggs, and it is illegal to access assisted conception services in the country without a marriage certificate and a document granting 'permission to give birth'. Cryopreservation is restricted to married women who are about to undergo treatment for cancer, reports Chinese media.

Qin Lang, a physician at the Reproductive Medical Center of the West China Second University Hospital in Chengdu, Sichuan province, said a growing number of women are requesting the procedure. 'We've seen a sharp rise in requests for egg freezing from single women – mostly working women from large cities – but the government's rules mean we have to turn them down,' he told the Telegraph.

Sperm storage is not restricted in the same way, however, and there have even been drives to collect sperm for use in sperm banks, including from single men (see BioNews 812).

Because of the ban, women who require egg donation treatment can only use eggs donated by other married women who are undergoing IVF, which can lead to delays.

The restrictions have been called sexist by a number of commentators on the Chinese social media site, Weibo, but China's government justifies the restrictions by claiming that eggs could be traded illegally on the black market. It also claims the procedure for harvesting eggs carries health risks, and egg freezing results in lower success rates in assisted conception.

Sun Aijun, a senior gynaecologist at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital, stated that the rise in women delaying having children has contributed to the rise in infertility in China. 'I feel sorry to see childbearing postponed as a result of women's liberation,' he said.

Opposing the ban, the Voice of Women's Rights group argued on Weibo that, regardless of the risks, single women should still have egg freezing as an option available to them.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
China egg freezing ban sparks massive debate online
BBC News |  4 August 2015
Does China own its women's eggs?
Public Radio International (PRI) |  5 August 2015
Egg freezing may not beat the biological clock
The Telegraph |  6 August 2015
Single women travel to US to defy Beijing egg-freezing ban
The Times |  7 August 2015
Why Aren't Chinese Women Allowed To Freeze Their Eggs Until They're Married?
Marie Claire |  5 August 2015
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