Bioethics Blogs

Single Women’s Reproductive Rights in China

Qian Liu explains that single women in China who are contemplating pregnancy often care more about the attitudes of their parents towards single mothers, than about the laws on assisted reproduction.


“I don’t care if the law does or doesn’t grant single women reproductive rights. I can get pregnant on my own and give birth if I really want to. But I don’t think I want to be a single mother by choice even if it is legal. What I care about most are the feelings of my parents and my relationship with them.” This is a version of the most common answer I got from 72 Chinese women when I asked them about the law in China which denies unmarried women the right to reproduce using reproductive technologies.

China, a country with a fertility rate of 1.05 children per woman, prohibits offering assisted reproductive technologies to single women. Also, women who choose to be single mothers by choice in China are penalized by the state. They have to pay a social upbringing fee for violating the country’s family planning policy. While lawyers and international media blame these laws for creating barriers to childbearing by single women in China, I argue that these laws are by no means the most significant factors keeping China’s single women from becoming single parents.

Last month, three Chinese NGOs involved in LGBT and gender issues released a report titled “Single Women’s Reproductive Rights – A Research Report on Policy and Lived Experience.” The report suggests that there is a close linkage between unmarried mothers’ miserable experiences and the law’s restrictions on childbearing out of wedlock.

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.