Bioethics Blogs

Egg Freezing in China: Liberty or Despair?

Jing-Bao Nie comments on how, in different ways, inadequate social supports for reproduction and parenting, and the prohibition on social egg freezing by single women in China limit women’s reproductive liberty.

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A recent article in The New York Times reports that some Chinese women, wishing to postpone motherhood, are traveling to North America to freeze their eggs. While the technology for this procedure is available in China, Chinese regulations currently prohibit unmarried women from accessing this and other assisted reproductive technologies, such as IVF.

In a Western context, some of the ethical issues surrounding ‘social’ egg freezing have been discussed in recent Impact Ethics posts. For example, Angel Petropanagos points out problems with the social biases in favour of pregnancy and motherhood. Lucy Morgan has questions whether egg freezing is a genuinely autonomous decision or just “an illusory choice.” Both argue that ethical discussions should move beyond individual reproductive autonomy.

As I see it, the fact that single Chinese women who want egg freezing must travel overseas to do so calls attention to a state violation of reproductive liberty as well as inadequate social supports for childbearing and child-raising in China.

Air China Boeing 777-200 Photo Credit: Duan Zhu (2011)

While obvious political and socio-cultural differences exist between China and western countries like Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, some fundamental ethical issues concerning human reproduction are similar. Most importantly, in both contexts there are underlying issues about women’s reproductive liberty and the lack of sufficient social supports related to reproduction and parenting.

Too often current global debates on women’s reproductive rights are regarded as merely Western ideas.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.