Beijing court convicts woman who wanted to freeze eggs

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — A Chinese court has dismissed a rare legal challenge brought by a single Beijing woman seeking the right to freeze her eggs.

The Chaoyang Intermediate People’s Court in Beijing ruled in a judgment that the hospital did not violate the woman’s rights by denying her access to freeze her eggs. Teresa Xu received the court judgment on Friday, nearly three years after she first brought the case.

In China, national law does not explicitly prohibit single people from accessing services such as fertility treatments, and simply states that a “husband and wife” can have up to three children. In practice, however, hospitals and other institutions enforce regulations in a way that requires people to present a marriage license. Single women who choose to have children find it difficult to access public benefits like maternity leave or coverage for prenatal exams.

In 2018, Xu, then 30, went to the Beijing Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital of Capital Medical University, a public hospital, to ask about freezing her eggs. After an initial review, she was told she could not continue as she could not present a marriage certificate. She said the doctor also urged her to have a child when she was still young.

Xu, who is unmarried, had wanted to save her eggs in order to have the possibility of having children at a later date.

“I think this lost lawsuit is not an attack on the reproductive rights of single women, maybe it’s a temporary setback,” she said in a short video statement announcing the news on her WeChat account.

Xu’s case was widely covered by national media in China, including some state media, when she took her case to court in 2019. Local media said her case against the hospital was the first in the country.

The hospital, according to the judgment, had argued that egg freezing posed certain health risks. But he also said delaying the pregnancy would lead to ‘problems’ such as risks for the mother during the pregnancy and ‘psychological and societal problems’ if there is a significant age gap between the parents and their child.

The hospital also said egg freezing services were only available for women who could not get pregnant naturally, not for healthy patients.

Xu said she plans to appeal the decision.

“There will definitely be a day (when) we take back sovereignty over our own bodies,” she said.