China’s Ministry of Health banned surrogacy in 2001, stipulating that medical institutions would be warned and fined for illegal conducting of surrogacy procedures, that made it impossible for women struggling with infertility to legally pursue building their family with a help of surrogate mother. The regulations were discussed by eight sessions of experts, specializing in various fields, who have been trying to match this method of Assisted Reproduction Technology with social ethics, morality and laws of China. In effect, gestational surrogacy was found as a technique that embodies unavoidable social and ethical issues, since the newborn baby belongs to the individuals who provided their gametal sells, from genetic point of view, but it is deemed to be very difficult to judge who the real legal mother of the child is.
Despite this regulation, mass media report that illegal surrogacy “black market” is still flourishing in China.
At the end of 2011, surrogacy was brought to special public’s attention by a wealthy couple from Guangdong Province on the south of China. The couple has failed to conceive a baby after several years of marriage, whereupon they took a decision to revert to medically assisted reproduction. Eight embryos were cultivated in fertility clinic, and all of them survived. Guided by the desire to keep all of them, the couple had five embryos carried by two surrogate mothers and three by the wife. This adventure resulted in the birth of eight (!) babies – four boys and four girls, which happened between September and October 2010.
Nowadays there are approximately 500 surrogacy agencies across China, and many of them are recruiting surrogate mothers and reaching the Intended Parents just online. Some of the agencies even have a comprehensive range of packages from “economic” to “luxury”. The Southern Daily recently found out that more than 180 QQ groups (Chinese instant chat communities) are registered in worldwide web, having about 30,000 members in their lines looking for surrogacy services. In order to avoid inspections, some of the agencies send their surrogates to other countries such as Thailand or India for in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer, and have them return to China for delivery.
Currently, the cost of surrogacy procedures is rather high in China. The rich couple from Gungdong Province spent reportedly near one million yuan (about 158,692 USD) for the services of two surrogate mothers and costs associated with medical procedures.
Interestingly, while some couples choose surrogacy for medical reasons, there are a lot of women who use surrogacy as bypass of one-child policy, adopted by China in the mid-1970ies to slow population growth. This legislation allows most urban couples to have only one child.
Anxious about such situation, two deputies to the National People’s Congress, Qin Xiyan and Wu Donglan, suggested in March 2012 that a strict legislation should be enacted to ban and punish illegal activities of surrogacy agencies. They find that the existing laws on surrogacy are not an effective means to ban the criminal practice. “The child becomes a commodity and the body of a woman becomes a tool for production, which is against traditions, customs and ethics. It will also cause legal disputes concerning fostering, parental support and inheritance”, says Wu Donglan.
It is therefore proposed by the deputies to ban surrogacy in China in both legal and administrative aspects, including penalties for offenders under Criminal Law, whereas the Population and Family Planning Law should clarify which government should supervise the issue.