Beijing court rules against woman who wanted to freeze her eggs

A Chinese court has dismissed a rare legal challenge by an unmarried Beijing woman seeking the right to freeze her eggs.

The Chaoyang Intermediate People’s Court in Beijing said in a ruling that the hospital had not infringed on the woman’s rights, as it was forbidden to freeze her eggs. Teresa Xu received the court’s ruling on Friday, nearly three years after she first brought up the case.

In China, national law does not expressly prohibit unmarried people from services such as fertility treatment, and only states that a “husband and wife” can have up to three children. In practice, however, hospitals and other institutions enforce the rules in a way that requires people to show a marriage license. Unmarried women who choose to have children have struggled to access public benefits such as maternity leave or coverage for antenatal examinations.

In 2018, Xu, then 30 years old, went to Capital Medical University’s Beijing Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital, a public hospital, to ask about freezing her eggs. After preliminary investigation, she was told that she could not proceed as she could not show the marriage certificate. She said that the doctor even urged her to have a baby while she was still young.

Xu, who is unmarried, wanted to preserve her eggs so that she would have the option of having children at a later date.

“I think this lawsuit is lost, it’s not an attack on the reproductive rights of single women, maybe it’s a temporary setback,” she said in a short video statement announcing the news on her WeChat account.

Xu’s case received widespread coverage from domestic media outlets in China, including some state media outlets, when he first brought his case to court in 2019. Local media had said that his case against the hospital was the first in the country.

According to the verdict, the hospital had argued that egg freezing poses certain health risks. But it also said that delaying pregnancy would cause “problems” such as risks to the mother during pregnancy, and “psychological and social problems” if there is a large age gap between the parents and their child.

The hospital also said that egg-freezing services were available only to women who could not become pregnant naturally, and not to healthy patients.

Xu said she plans to appeal the decision.

“Surely one day (when) we will take back sovereignty over our bodies,” she said.

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