Ban­ning sur­ro­gacy, only ra­tional choice for China

Global Times - Weekend - - OPINION - By Li Aixin

What would peo­ple do if they want to have chil­dren of their own yet are phys­i­cally un­able to give birth? A re­cent ar­ti­cle pub­lished by Peo­ple’s Daily hinted that sur­ro­gacy can be a choice. Apart from mak­ing a case that ev­ery­one has the right to have chil­dren, the re­port promptly rekin­dled a fierce de­bate among Chi­nese ne­ti­zens over the moral and le­gal is­sues about such prac­tice.

“Nearly 90 per­cent of women can­not con­ceive nat­u­rally after the age of 45,” said the ar­ti­cle, which quoted data from China’s Na­tional Health and Fam­ily Plan­ning Com­mis­sion (NHFPC) in 2016 as say­ing that 50 per­cent of women in Chi­nese fam­i­lies who are el­i­gi­ble to have a sec­ond child are over the age of 40.

Re­ports show that China’s fer­til­ity rate was only 1.047 dur­ing the pop­u­la­tion cen­sus in 2015, which is less than half of the world’s av­er­age and is even lower than that of Ja­pan, a rapidly age­ing so­ci­ety. Even if Bei­jing re­laxed the one-child pol­icy, a ma­jor­ity of peo­ple who look for­ward to have a sec­ond child still find it hard to give birth be­cause of their age, while var­i­ous other fac­tors in­clud­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion and pres­sure at work are mak­ing the odds slim­mer.

It may, there­fore, be com­fort­ing to hear sug­ges­tions that sur­ro­gacy should not be to­tally for­bid­den, but to be sup­ported with rel­e­vant reg­u­la­tions.

Nev­er­the­less, most Chi­nese ne­ti­zens are more wor­ried about the neg­a­tive side ef­fects once sur­ro­gacy be­comes le­gal. They claimed that pros­ti­tu­tion, drug abuse, mur­der and hu­man traf­fick­ing are all il­le­gal and there is no lack of re­lated laws and reg­u­la­tions in those fields. But un­for­tu­nately, those crimes are still be­ing com­mit­ted. That be­ing said, how can any­one guar­an­tee that there won’t be any un­law­ful sur­ro­gacy ser­vices, not to men­tion grave moral con­cerns, in the fu­ture once we re­lax the pol­icy?

Sim­i­lar cases abroad can pro­vide us with some lessons. Early last year, a US sur­ro­gate mother who was preg­nant with triplets filed a law­suit against the com­mis­sion­ing fa­ther over the lat­ter’s de­mands to abort one of the fe­tuses for he only wanted twins. Say­ing she had bonded with all three un­born chil­dren, the mother hoped the court would rule that her sur­ro­gacy con­tract was un­en­force­able. How­ever, ac­cord­ing to sur­ro­gacy law in Cal­i­for­nia, sur­ro­gate mother has no parental right. Hence, the case was dis­missed.

Can sur­ro­gate moth­ers be forced to have an abor­tion? Can they keep their chil­dren once they change their mind? These are not the only is­sues in the story. More im­por­tantly, will ba­bies be com­mer­cial­ized after sur­ro­gacy be­comes le­gal?

In In­dia and Thai­land, some young girls from poor fam­i­lies are forced to con­ceive ba­bies for sale. They are treated like money mint­ing ma­chines in black mar­kets. If their “clients” de­cided to give up their ba­bies, sur­ro­gate moth­ers can only bear all the con­se­quences them­selves.

In­deed, sur­ro­gacy is le­gal in some parts of the world. Yet the truth is it is pro­hib­ited in more coun­tries and re­gions and there is a rea­son for that. Even in ar­eas with rel­a­tively ad­vanced le­gal sys­tems like the US, tragedies can­not be fully avoided. Un­der the cur­rent cir­cum­stances in China, where con­di­tions are not ma­ture enough to em­brace sur­ro­gacy with­out ma­jor con­cerns, sup­port­ing sur­ro­gacy lit­i­ga­tion may bring more dam­age than hap­pi­ness.

Dur­ing a press con­fer­ence of NHFPC on Wed­nes­day, China reaf­firmed to keep crack­ing down on such prac­tice and ban­ning med­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions and pro­fes­sion­als from per­form­ing sur­ro­gate tech­niques of any kind. This is not only Bei­jing’s of­fi­cial stance on the case, but also the only ra­tional choice at the mo­ment. After all, as a Chi­nese ne­ti­zen put it, “since pros­ti­tu­tion is not le­gal, how could a woman rent­ing her uterus be­ing per­mis­si­ble while rent­ing her vag­ina is pro­hib­ited? How in­con­sis­tent is that.” The au­thor is a re­porter with the Global Times. li­aixin@glob­al­times.com.cn

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