Having babies from abroad

Updated: 2014-10-08 07:59

By YANG WANLI(China Daily)

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Having babies from abroad 

A woman (right) who hopes to have a daughter through a surrogate in the US seeks consultation at a surrogacy center in Beijing. FENG YONGBIN/CHINA DAILY 

Li gave the reporter a detailed introduction to the agency's surrogacy services, including photos and resumes of three doctors from three different level three hospitals in Guangzhou.

But checks later showed that the three doctors mentioned could not be found in the hospitals.

"As you know surrogacy is not permitted in China, so we can't use the true names of those doctors. But you can pay a visit to our clinic in Guangzhou first. We will let you see the doctor after we make the deal," she said.

Such unreliable surrogacy services without legal protection also pose risks to surrogate mothers—most of whom are poorly educated without any knowledge of legal issues. To them, surrogacy is a 10-month deal that promises easy and fast money.

On Tianya, one of China's biggest online chat platforms, posts looking for women as commercial surrogate mothers can easily be found.

When contacted via the QQ messaging service, a representative of a surrogacy agency called Angel Surrogacy Center based in Fujian province said its surrogate mothers hail from North and South China but stay in Fujian and Hubei provinces.

These people "don't want to get pregnant in their hometown to avoid the embarrassment of meeting their friends", said the representative, who wanted to be known as Chen.

On its website, the agency said it has been operating for four years and has served more than 100 couples. Surrogate mothers can choose to stay in an apartment that the agency arranges (usually three to four surrogate mothers share one apartment) or in a house provided directly by the clients.

"You can get 170,000 yuan for having one baby and the clients will pay all the other costs such as food and household chores. Seventy percent of the total payment will be given during gestation time, and the remaining 30 percent will be paid after delivery," Chen said.

"If you are younger than 35, had virginal delivery experience and a medical check to prove your health, we will hire you."

But when asked how payment can be ensured and about insurance to cover any possible emergency during the pregnancy, the representative of the agency only reiterated its four years of experience and the trust between its clients and surrogate mothers.

"You know it doesn't make any sense to sign a contract since surrogacy is illegal in China. Neither clients nor we want to have any conflict with surrogate mothers. So if you can deliver a baby successfully, there should be no worries about the payment," she said.

But those who turn to the domestic surrogacy market because of cheaper services still run the risk of losing the money they fork out and running afoul of the law.

"The contract will be regarded as invalid because it violates moral principles and is against the law on the commercial trade of human organs," said Wan Xin, a member of the Beijing Health Law Society.

According to the Administrative Measures on Human Assisted Reproductive Technology by the National Health and Family Planning Commission, medical departments or physicians involved in surrogacy services will receive a warning and fined as much as 30,000 yuan.

If such activity constitutes a crime, criminal liability shall be imposed in accordance with the law.

"This is just a regulation and not punitive enough. There are still loopholes for agencies that are independent of medical bodies," Wan said.

"Such illegal services will not only bring high risks to surrogate mothers and babies, but may also endanger the legal recognition of the parent-child relationship."

According to China's Marriage Law and Inheritance Law, children fall under one of four categories–legitimate, illegitimate, stepchild and adopted child. On the birth certificate, Wan said, the "mother" legally recognized is the person who gave birth to the child.

Due to the lack of related regulations or laws on surrogacy, disputes over child maintenance and inheritance have become more frequent in past years, Wan said.

Wang Guisong, associate professor at the law school of Renmin University of China, said there are no investigations showing the scale of the grey market of surrogacy in China, but demand is clearly booming due to the infertility situation and improving economic conditions.

"The government should face this problem at an early stage, decriminalizing surrogacy and developing policies around the legalization of surrogacy for infertile Chinese couples," he said.

France Winddance Twine, professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, suggested that federal legislation should be made in the US and China that regulates surrogacy and provides more long-term protection and medical insurance for surrogate mothers.

"It could generate a dialogue since the industry remains unregulated in both countries, creating the possibility for fraud, labor exploitation of surrogate mothers," she said.

"We also need a transnational or inter-country agreement on surrogacy since so many individuals travel from Asia (China and Japan) to the countries, like the US where some states like California allow it, to purchase the services of a gestational surrogate."

She said the labor market is stratified in the US and given the ongoing gender discrimination in the labor force, surrogacy provides fertile women of child-bearing age with a way to earn money.

"There should be no discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, and religion of the 'gestational' surrogate mothers who are not genetically related to the child that they birth," Twine said.

"As more Asian women follow what is happening in the US among professional women, the younger generations who have the financial resources will begin freezing their eggs and banking them. We may see a decrease in future generations of upper middle-class women using surrogacy services."

Contact the writer at yangwanli@chinadaily.com.cn

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