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Online community debates whether China should legalize surrogacy

China’s online community has been debating whether surrogacy should be legally permitted in China since the state-run newspaper People’s Daily published an article on February 3, arguing surrogacy could benefit infertile couples and prevent high-risk pregnancies.

While surrogacy is legal in countries like the US, Belgium and the Netherlands, it has been banned in China for around 16 years when Laws of the Management of Auxiliary Reproductive Technologies of Human Race took effect in 2001.

However, as the newspaper has always been regarded as an outlet for releasing information about the government policy direction, the article soon triggered speculation whether the government was considering a policy change, with fierce debates on social media over the morality, practicality and other social effects of surrogacy.

On Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like microblogging platform in China, the hashtag of “When can surrogacy be legalized” has received more than 45,980,000 views and over 50,000 discussions as of 7 pm on Monday.

“For women who might lose their wombs due to disease, and those who might lose their children in disasters like Sichuan earthquake in 2008 and Tianjin blasts, allowing them to find a surrogate mother will definitely act as savior,” one supporter said.

The article came one year after the government abandoned its 30-year-long one-child policy in a bid to mitigate the effects of an aging population and shrinking labor force. However, while the mainland recorded 18.46 million births in 2016, the highest number in 17 years, it’s still below the previous estimates of 20 million births.

The article also said that there are around 90 million families eligible to have a second child now, but 60% women among them are over 35 years old, and half are over 40, which experts quoted by the newspaper believe to be risky to have baby.

"With women's aging, the fertility rate declines. About 90 percent of women lose the ability to give birth after the age of 45. The average age for a woman to get pregnant for the last time is 40," said Geng Linlin, deputy director of the Clinical Medicine Center of the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC).

The experts also suggested the government to “properly allow surrogacy” for couples who lost their children in natural disasters and argue that ethical problems should not be an obstacle for surrogacy.

However, on February 8, the NHFPC spokesperson Mao Qunan said at a news conference that China will continue forbidding surrogate pregnancies in response to the buzz and added that further steps will be taken to combat such practices.

Although the statement has made the government’s attitude clear to the public, it didn’t help to calm discussions over the topic on the Internet, with more people caring about the consequences of making surrogacy legalized in China. “What matters is more than surrogacy itself,” one user said on Weibo.

While many supporters of surrogacy in China argue that surrogacy will give those who want to have a baby but are not able to conceive a chance to have a baby, opponents worry that surrogacy may trigger a series of illegal practices, such as human trafficking, and moral issues, like how to guarantee rights of the surrogate mothers and women, especially in less educated rural areas of China, who might be coerced to become a surrogate mother.

“As a woman, I think surrogacy does more harm than good to a woman. It’s not just about whether surrogate mothers will become breeding machines, but more about that the consequences might be hard to predict. A surrogate mother may live a miserable life thereafter,” one netizen said.

“As long as there is a complete system for crime surveillance, legal provisions for surrogacy, as well as good execution of police force, I will support legalization of surrogacy; after all it is necessary for some women. But it seems that it’s still too early for us to talk about this issue,” said another.

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