China looks at making surrogate motherhood legal
State media article considers measure as means of dealing with ageing population and shrinking workforce
State media has published a rare, lengthy analysis on the possibility of legalising non-commercial surrogate motherhood to support the two-child policy.
In the article, People’s Daily said many people believed relaxing regulations around surrogacy could help give more families a second child. It quoted experts who said surrogate motherhood should be considered an option in cases such as high-risk pregnancy and infertility.
The mainland scrapped its decades-old one-child rule last year to allow couples to have two children, in a bid to offset the effects of an ageing population and dwindling labour force.
The mainland recorded 18.46 million births last year, the highest number in 17 years. But these figures were below previous estimates of 20 million births.
The labour force – those aged 16 to 59 – continued to shrink for the fifth year in a row in 2016, losing about 3.49 million workers. Additionally, the mainland had 230.86 million people aged 60 or older at the end of 2016 – up from 222 million a year earlier.
The article by People’s Daily published on Friday said that among the 90 million families that could theoretically have a second baby.
Under rules established by the Ministry of Health in 2001, it is illegal for any medical personnel or institute to offer surrogacy services. Trading in sperm, ovum, fertilised eggs and embryos are also illegal. When the two-child policy was drafted, it originally came with an amendment in which surrogacy would be outright banned. But the government later scrapped the provision.
The article quoted Wang Lina, a gynaecologist at a top hospital in Beijing, who urged the government to start allowing voluntary surrogacy for infertile mothers while still prohibiting pure commercial ventures in the area.
The article cited Professor Yun Xiuyun from Peking University who said that technical discussions on surrogacy should not be banned despite the current ban.
Professor Wang Yifang, from Peking University, was quoted assaying “ethics should not become a burden but a facilitating tool in developing surrogate technology.”
The article caused a stir on the internet, leading many users wondering how non-commercial surrogate motherhood could be realistically feasible in China.
“It costs no money to seek surrogacy service? It makes no sense to me,” according to a post on Weibo.