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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.

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
20 June 2016 - by Sarah Gregory 
The Chinese government is using social media to recruit sperm donors, according to a report in the New York Times...
8 February 2016 - by Dr Linda Wijlaars 
The US Department of Defense will offer to pay for active service members to have their sperm or eggs frozen in an effort to retain troops...
1 September 2015 - by Ann Furedi 
I was recently struck by the extent of media interest in the rising age at which women have babies - and the obnoxious arrogance of some of the related commentaries. Everyone, it seems, has a view on the right time for a woman to have a family...
24 August 2015 - by Dr Edgar Mocanu 
How easy is to tell a 25-year-old that she has no eggs and that she may never have a family using her own oocytes...
17 August 2015 - by Dr Meghna Kataria 
Using frozen donated eggs over fresh ones for IVF hampers the odds of a successful live birth, a study has found...
9 March 2015 - by Dr Rachel Montgomery 
I arrived with some bemusement at this one-hour debate, 'Does egg-freezing enable women to "have it all"', to Beyoncé playing out loudly to an excited lecture theatre...
27 October 2014 - by Heidi Mertes 
Facebook and Apple's recently announced plans make egg-freezing sound like an insurance plan for women wanting to build their careers, but should be viewed as a last resort....
12 November 2012 - by Dr Gillian Lockwood 
After a decade of claiming that the technique was only applicable to young cancer patients whose treatment would render them prematurely infertile, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) has decided that vitrification and warming of unfertilised oocytes followed by fertilisation by ICSI results in acceptable subsequent pregnancy rates...
23 April 2012 - by Dr Marianne Kennedy 
Women may soon be given the option of banking their ovarian tissue if a new clinic to offer the procedure opens in the UK. The technique allows women to freeze ovarian tissue containing eggs to use at a later date and could assist cancer patients and other women who hope to have children later in life....
16 May 2011 - by Ayesha Ahmad 
A fertility clinic in Amsterdam has announced it is to offer egg freezing techniques on social grounds despite professional bodies recommending that the procedure be investigated further....
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