China Court to Single Woman: You Can't Freeze Your Eggs

The case was the first of its kind and drew widespread media coverage in China
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 25, 2022 2:45 PM CDT
Unmarried Beijing Woman Denied Right to Freeze Eggs
Teresa Xu waits to attend her court session at the Chaoyang People's Court in Beijing on Sept. 17, 2021. A Beijing court overruled a rare legal challenge brought by the unmarried Beijing woman in court for the right to freeze her eggs on Friday, July 22, 2022.   (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

(Newser) – A Chinese court has overruled a rare legal challenge brought by an unmarried Beijing woman seeking the right to freeze her eggs. The Chaoyang Intermediate People's Court in Beijing ruled that the hospital did not violate the woman's rights in denying her access to freeze her eggs, per the AP. Teresa Xu received the court judgment Friday, almost three years after bringing the case. In China, national law does not explicitly ban unmarried people from services like fertility treatments; it simply states that a “husband and wife” can have up to three children. In practice, however, hospitals and other institutions implement the regulations in a way that requires people to show a marriage license. Unmarried women who choose to have children have struggled to access public benefits like maternity leave or coverage for prenatal exams.

In 2018, Xu, then 30, went to Beijing Obstetrics and Gynecology to ask about freezing her eggs. After an initial examination, she was told she could not proceed further because she could not show a marriage certificate. She said the doctor also urged her to have a child while she was still young. Xu, who is unmarried, had wanted to preserve her eggs so she could have an option to bear children later. Xu's case in 2019 drew broad coverage from domestic media outlets in China, including some state media outlets. Local media had said her case against the hospital was the country's first.

In court documents, the hospital argued that egg freezing poses certain health risks. But it also said that delaying pregnancy would bring about “problems” such as risks to the mother, and “psychological and societal problems” if there is a large age gap between parents and children. The hospital also said egg-freezing services were available only to women who could not get pregnant naturally. Xu said she plans to appeal the ruling. “There will definitely be a day [when] we will take back sovereignty over our own bodies,” she said in a statement announcing the news on her WeChat account. (Read more freezing eggs stories.)

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