Teresa Xu is a typical 31 year old woman in Beijing, working hard and focusing on her career. When she visited the Beijing Obstetrics and Gynaecology hospital at the end of 2018, she was shocked when a doctor told her that she could not freeze her eggs.
The doctor’s solution to Xu’s fertility worries? She should get married and have babies now, rather than waiting until later in life.
Rightfully so, Xu felt patronised, disappointed, and irritated. “I had no way to express my anger. I felt like I was an intruder, delaying other couples … like my demands were too much. I felt powerless and depressed.”
This helplessness is common amongst women suffering with infertility, but in China, even women attempting to plan ahead are subjected to this frustration.
However, she wasn’t contented to sit back and let this injustice go unquestioned. She decided to fight back, and she took the hospital to court in December. She made the case that they violated her personal rights by refusing to freeze her eggs.
Her case has started a debate across China about single women’s reproductive rights
As Chinese women are putting marriage and motherhood off until later in life than ever before, this is a national conversation worth having.
China’s infamous One Child policy has now been adjusted to allow for two children. However, the loosening of reproductive rights does not apply to single women, who are not permitted to access fertility services, such as sperm banks and egg freezing. If single women want to obtain these health services, they usually go abroad, at a personal cost of between $10,000 and $18,000 USD.
Xu did not feel that she should have to go aboard to access these services
She has been refused by four hospitals, and her lawsuit has also been turned down three times in the past.
She is undeterred. “Whether I choose to have a child or not, I should have the right to choose. Many women don’t know that they can freeze their eggs. When their own childbearing pressure and workplace pressure overlap, they may not know there is a way to solve the problem. Most of the time, they choose having a child under great pressure. When they choose their career they bear a lot of criticism from society and their family.”
She has received equal parts criticism and support from women across China
“So many things are suppressed. People can’t feel, can’t imagine and don’t realise what personal freedoms women can have,” she opines. “I hope we can create a new model or image of single women who want to have children.”