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Freezing facilities spark demographic debate in China
Lawmakers have suggested opening egg freezing facilities for women of childbearing age in East China's Shanghai Municipality as a pilot scheme.
"I think that China will open egg freezing to single women in five years against the backdrop trend of a declining population," proposer Xu Shanshan, a member of the CPPCC Shanghai Committee and a lawyer of Hiways Law Firm, said.
A doctor opens a liquid nitrogen storage container for sperm or eggs at the assisted reproductive medicine center of Sichuan Provincial People's Hospital in the southwestern city of Chengdu. (Photo: VCG)
In 2018, 15.23 million people were born in China, a birth rate of 10.94 per thousand, according to the National Bureau of Statistics in 2019. The number of newborns fell 2 million from 17.23 million in 2017.
Easing strict limitations on egg freezing to stimulate the growth of the population has sparked discussion in China.
A 36-year-old Beijing office worker said that if the Chinese mainland relaxed its policy on egg freezing for single women, she would do it immediately.
She has been considering egg freezing since she was 30 and even enquired about it in Hong Kong. But her plans were put on hold over the high costs and the difficulty of identifying qualified hospitals.
"Egg freezing is a guarantee that I can have a baby in the future without worrying about the quality of my eggs," she said.
Egg freezing is a method for preserving a woman's fertility so that she can try to have a child more easily at a later date.
Theresa Qiu is a member of CPPCC Shanghai Committee and a lawyer at AllBright Law Offices who submitted the proposal with Xu.
To reverse the trend of population decline and an ageing population, China has adopted the second-child policy to encourage people to have more children, Qiu said.
But according to the National Bureau of Statistics, about 17 million babies were born in 2017, 6 million fewer than the previous estimation of 23 million.
Part of the reason for this is that some families who want a second child have begun to have trouble conceiving because of their age, Qiu said.
To respect traditional culture and family planning in China, Xu explained that they proposed easing limitations on egg freezing but maintain controls on the use of eggs.
Shanghai Municipal Health Commission responded that the proposal did not comply with relevant laws and regulations and there were still many technical risks, according to Xu.
"I believe that reducing limitations on egg freezing in China is inevitably going to be a trend, especially given the declining population China is undergoing currently," Xu said.
She is collecting more evidence and supporting data while she plans next year to submit the proposal for egg freezing.
According to the Measures of Human Auxiliary Reproduction Technology issued by the commission in 2001, only couples suffering from infertility who possess a marriage certificate, identity card and birth approval certificate can get access to assisted reproductive technology.
This means that healthy single women in China have little access to freezing and preserving their eggs.
In response to calls for the lifting of the restrictions on single women's reproductive rights after the two sessions of 2017, the commission announced that China's relevant laws do not deny the reproductive rights of single women, and Northeast China's Jilin Province has formulated regulations to allow single females to freeze eggs in light of the actual situation.
Relaxing restrictions on egg freezing can be regarded as a long-term development plan, but it was difficult to determine a specific timeline, Qiu said.
Only after the legal system has been improved can the rights of women of child-bearing age be guaranteed and then egg freezing technology will be able to play a positive role in society under more relaxed restrictions.
And that's People's Daily Tonight. Thanks for joining us.
(Produced by Han Xiaomeng; text from Global Times)