Teresa Xu: Chinese woman loses court case over bid to freeze eggs

By Elsa Maishman

BBC News

Teresa Xu in 2021.Image source, AFP

Image caption,

Ms Xu has said she will appeal

A Chinese court has ruled against an unmarried woman seeking the right to freeze her eggs.

Teresa Xu took legal action in 2019 after the Beijing Obstetrics and Gynaecology Hospital refused to perform the procedure, only available to married women with fertility problems.

But the court found that the hospital had not violated her rights.

Ms Xu labelled the judgement a “setback” for women’s reproductive rights, and promised to appeal.

According to the judgement the hospital said it “understood” the complaint but had to follow the law.

When Ms Xu first launched the case, Chao Wei, a spokesperson for the hospital, said staff had complied with government regulations on assisted reproductive technologies, the New York Times reported.

Then 30, Ms Xu attempted to freeze her eggs in 2018 in order to focus on her career as a freelance editor.

But she said hospital staff had encouraged her to have a child at that time instead.

She was later told the treatment was only available to women who could not become pregnant without intervention, AFP news agency reports. The hospital also said pregnancies in older women were more risky, and noted challenges faced by single mothers.

Women’s eggs deteriorate with ageing, making it more difficult to have a child. There is high demand for egg freezing in China, with many women who can afford to do so travelling abroad for the procedure.

Ms Xu said she had considered going abroad, but it was too expensive.

Her case has been widely followed in China, where there are strict controls on birth control and reproductive rights.

In a video posted on the social network WeChat, Ms Xu said she was “not going to let it end like this.”

“We can’t say that this is a blow to the reproductive rights of single women,” she said, “but it may be a small temporary setback.”

In 2019 Ms Xu said she had experienced societal pressure to have a child rather than focus on her career.

Referring to her visits to the hospital, she said: “I came here for a professional service, but instead I got someone who was urging me to put aside my work and to have a child first. “I have already received a lot of this pressure in this society, this culture.”

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