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Lawsuit over eggs tests China’s policies on unmarried women

BEIJING

After almost two years, an unmarried woman suing for the proper to freeze her eggs in Beijing is getting her case heard in court Friday during a rare legal challenge against the country’s restrictions on unmarried women in reproductive health.

Teresa Xu has been waiting since December 2019 for her second hearing at the Chaoyang People’s Court in Beijing. She is suing Beijing Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital at Capital Medical University, a public hospital that forbids her from freezing her eggs, citing national law.

Xu’s victory could mark a crucial step for unmarried women in China who want to access public benefits. Unlike within the U.S., though, court judgments in China don’t believe precedence.

“From 2018 so far, it’s been three years, and my eggs are becoming older with me, and therefore the deadline is more and more pressing,” Xu, 33, said.

Her case is getting heard after the most recent census data showed that increase was slowing, while the proportion of elderly people was growing. the amount of newborns had fallen per annum since 2016. National-level statistics showed that 12 million babies were born in 2020, down 18% from 14.6 million in 2019.

Beijing has responded by allowing families to have a 3rd child, and said it’ll revamp policy to assist families who want to possess children.

For decades, China had instituted a “one-child” policy. It eased the restrictions slightly in 2015 to permit families to have two kids, although that didn’t change the general slowing of population growth.

Yet, some aspects of the system, like tying reproductive health services and things like maternity benefits to a woman’s marriage status, has made it difficult for a few. China only allows married couples to access reproductive services and related benefits and that they must be ready to prove their marriage status with the license.

“I hope that the signal it sends about needing increase will allow single women the chance to be ready to make their own choice,” Xu told reporters ahead of the court.

Xu visited the hospital in November 2018. When she visited the doctor, she was urged to possess a toddler rather than freezing her eggs. The doctor also requested to ascertain her marriage license.

Xu said her court hearing had been continually pushed back, owing partially to the pandemic. She had briefly considered going abroad, but the prices — between $15,500 to $31,000 — weren’t feasible.

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