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Chinese woman sues hospital for refusing to freeze her eggs

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BBC

A woman in China is suing a hospital after doctors refused to freeze her eggs because she is unmarried, in line with a law on assisted reproduction.

Teresa Xu visited Beijing Obstetrics and Gynaecology Hospital last year with the aim of freezing her eggs while she focused on her career.

The freelance editor, 31, said hospital staff had urged her to have a child instead of freezing her eggs.

She said she had been told later she could not proceed with treatment.

“I came here for a professional service, but instead I got someone who was urging me to put aside my work and have a child first,” Ms Xu told Reuters news agency.

Chao Wei, a spokesman for the hospital, said the facility was complying with government regulations on assisted reproductive technologies, the New York Times reported.

On Monday, a court in Beijing heard Ms Xu’s lawsuit against the hospital. The case, which is expected to go on for several months, has been widely discussed on Chinese social media, where many have voiced support for Ms Xu.

Speaking after her hearing, Ms Xu said: “For me I didn’t feel like I was at court as an individual. I felt I was standing there with the weight of many other single women’s expectations.”

A woman’s eggs deteriorate in quality as she ages, making it more difficult for older women to have a child. There is a high demand for egg freezing in China, while women who can afford to tend to travel overseas for the treatment.

In 2013, popular Chinese actress Xu Jinglei announced that she had frozen nine of her eggs. She travelled to the US at the age of 39 for the treatment.

Ms Xu said she had considered going abroad but it was too expensive. She said she had been quoted prices of 100,000 yuan (£11,016) for the treatment in Thailand and 200,000 yuan (£22,032) in the US.

Many users of China’s social media site Weibo voiced their support for Ms Xu using a hashtag that translates as “China’s first unmarried frozen egg case”. One person wrote: “Fertility should not be the sole value of women. Apart from being a mother, you are first and foremost an independent person.”

Another said: “If Chinese law changes, make sperm banks open to unmarried women! The population problem can be solved a little bit. There are still many people who don’t want to get married and want to have a baby.”

Chinese women’s bodies have been subjected to stringent strict control by the state since a birth control policy was introduced in the 1970s. China replaced its one-child policy with a universal two-child policy in 2015, but there are still significant restrictions on fertility treatments and unmarried women are still not allowed to freeze their eggs.

Some Weibo users asked why the woman was suing the hospital. “I don’t think there is any problem in the hospital’s affairs and work. The parties should not sue the hospital but the State Family Planning Association,” one person said.