Chinese legislator to propose allowing gestational surrogacy among specific groups
Published: Mar 02, 2021 05:53 AM
Surrogacy is illegal in China, so hiring a surrogate in the US has become an increasingly popular choice  among wealthy Chinese couples who can’t conceive. Photos: IC

Surrogacy is illegal in China, so hiring a surrogate in the US has become an increasingly popular choice among wealthy Chinese couples who can’t conceive. Photos: IC

A Chinese legislator will submit a proposal at China’s upcoming two sessions, suggesting that China should allow surrogacy among specific groups, with strict and sound regulations and a supervision mechanism. Surrogacy is currently illegal and some observers in China strongly disapprove due to ethical concerns and the potential for exploitation of women.

Zhu Lieyu, an NPC deputy who is a lawyer from the Guoding Law Firm in Guangzhou, South China’s Guangdong Province, holds that that the prohibition of surrogacy ignores the needs of specific groups, like the increasing number of infertile families in China or families that have lost their only child.

China has been seeing an increasing infertility rate in recent years, jumping from 3 percent in 1995 to 16.4 percent in 2019, according to a report released by the Qianzhan Industry Research Institute in February. From 2012 to 2018, the number of infertile people rose rapidly from 40 million to 50 million, statistics show.

Moreover, due to limited regulations on surrogacy, simply banning such behavior may make some medical institutions go underground, Zhu said, adding that the surrogacy agreements formed spontaneously among people often lead to disputes.

He suggested that China could set up a special committee or administrative body to determine the validity of the surrogacy agreement, in a bid to supervise and manage the surrogacy agreement before it is implemented and to protect the interests of the parties concerned, citing Israel's Approval Committee, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in the UK and the Assisted Human Reproduction Agency (AHRAC) in Canada.

After the surrogacy agreement is fulfilled, the court needs to intervene to confirm the parent-child relationship legally, Zhu said.

But Zhu noted that only gestational surrogacy – in which the intended parents create an embryo with in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and using their own egg and sperm – should be allowed, to protect women’s interests. “For infertile couples, conceiving offspring via gestational surrogacy is for women to exercise their reproductive rights and should be properly protected by law,” Zhu said.

However, many observers still strongly disapprove of surrogacy, considering the moral issues it raises and the potential for exploitation of women.

"I have no objection to citizens realizing their own rights to reproduction, but it cannot be done at the expense of the rights of others,” Zhang Jing, a Beijing-based matrimonial lawyer told the Global Times, adding that even if it is done via a contract signed willingly, there is a degree of risk.

Zhang noted that surrogacy will bring along a series of problems such as ethical problems, gender selection, and exploitation of the reproduction rights of women, especially those in disadvantaged areas of society.

Jiang Shengnan, an NPC deputy and a writer who is famous for her work The Legend of Miyue, also proposed that organizers and personnel working in illegal surrogacy should be punished.

The proposal was echoed by many netizens, who remember a surrogacy scandal in January when Zheng Shuang, a high-profile Chinese actress, was accused by her ex-boyfriend of abandoning their two surrogate children in the US.

The scandal sparked internet outrage, with many netizens criticizing Zheng’s irresponsible behavior and joining an online chorus against surrogacy.

China bans surrogacy in any form, but the legislation on surrogacy is very limited currently. According to Article 3 of the Chinese Administrative Measures on Human Assisted Reproductive Technology, promulgated and implemented in 2001, medical institutions and professionals shall not implement any form of surrogacy.

The Measures can only restrict medical institutions, and punishments are only limited to fines or disciplinary measures. Laws or departmental regulations governing both parties involved in surrogacy are still absent, which has left a grey area. For instance, some people may seek surrogate services in other countries where this practice is legal, observers said.

Zhang suggested that China could expand restrictions on surrogacy from institutions to individuals who engage in surrogacy other than for medical purposes. “A woman’s body cannot be used as a fertility tool,” Zhang said.