A Beijing court has overruled the country’s first lawsuit involving an unmarried woman’s wish to freeze her eggs more than two years after it was filed.
The Chaoyang Intermediate People’s Court said that the hospital didn’t violate the rights of Xu Zaozao — identified by her pseudonym — by refusing to freeze her eggs, according to the verdict published Friday. Instead, the court said the then 30-year-old’s medical request had “violated relevant departmental regulations.”
Current government regulations restrict the use of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) to married couples who are entitled to have a child under family planning policies and are medically infertile.
In 2019, Xu sued the Beijing Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital for infringing her reproductive rights. She had visited the hospital the previous year to inquire about the possibility of freezing her eggs, but a doctor refused her request and told her to get married and have children instead.
The restriction on unmarried women freezing their eggs has long been regarded as a form of gender discrimination, as single men are allowed to freeze their sperm. Rights activists, legal professionals, and delegates attending the annual “Two Sessions” political meetings have time and again petitioned for the right for single women to freeze their eggs.
But the National Health Commission has kept rejecting the proposals that have been presented multiple times since 2017. The country’s top authorities said they still need long-term data to confirm the “safety and efficacy” of the technology, and the procedure’s commercialization would “give false hope to women, causing them to further delay their birth plans.”
Experts say that such restrictions could result in the practice going underground, resulting in medical malpractice. Some also believe that the restrictions are meant to curb potentially exploitative practices like egg-selling and surrogacy, which are illegal in China.
Xu, however, remains positive. She told domestic outlet Caixin that although the lawsuit was dismissed, it has helped to make more people aware of the reproductive wishes of single women.
Xu said that she will appeal the ruling and “will not give up easily.”
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: Xu Zaozao prepares to attend a court session at the Chaoyang People’s Court in Beijing, Sept. 17, 2021. VCG)