The increase in surrogacy worldwide is an issue that concerns bioethicists. Several American states currently allow the practice, and New York has legalized commercial surrogacy contracts with significant financial aid and many other services (read HERE). The United Kingdom also bans surrogacy contracts but supports foreign surrogacy, allowing the exportation of gametes. This allows UK citizens access to surrogacy without having to travel abroad, which is very useful in the coronavirus crisis (Read UK fertility regulator HFEA supports commercial surrogacy of British citizens abroad). Economists say worldwide surrogacy is a growing niche market that represents a great opportunity for investors (the global surrogacy market share is anticipated to surpass USD 27.5 billion by 2025 states recent research by Global Market Insights, Inc. Read more HERE).
China has a great interest in being the world’s leading biomedical provider. This country, where researchers often lack bioethical principles, also has unprecedented population aging and one of the lowest fertility rates, representing a potentially huge market for the surrogacy business.
Current public debate on surrogacy industry in China
In this respect, recent news sparked a national debate about surrogacy. An internationally renowned Chinese celebrity, actress Zheng Shuang, has been accused by her former partner of abandoning their two children born to US-based surrogate mothers using gametes from the actress and her boyfriend.
The scandal exploded in the media, garnering 3 billion views and harsh criticism. Even China’s ruling Communist Party agency (CPP) accused Zheng of taking advantage of legal loopholes by seeking surrogate mothers in the US, calling her actions “definitely not law-abiding” (read CNN, January 23, 2021, HERE). Is it true? What do legal loopholes really mean?
“Driven by high demands from society, the surrogacy industry has flourished in recent years in China with an estimate of 10,000 resulting children born [abroad] every year.” (International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family (June 29, 2020) and Oxford University Press (read more HERE).
The shocking contradiction is well explained by the aforementioned report published in CNN: Individuals or agencies are not banned from commissioning or providing surrogacy services.
The legal limbo has led to a growing underground domestic surrogacy industry
“In 2001, the Ministry of Health issued a set of regulations on assisted reproductive technology, which banned medical institutions and health care workers from ‘practicing any form of surrogate technology.’ The trade of sperm, ova, zygotes and embryos is also strictly prohibited. Medical institutions can be fined up to 30,000 Yuan ($4,632) for violations, according to the rules. But the document did not ban individuals or agencies from commissioning or providing surrogacy services or list any according to punishment. The legal limbo has led to a growing underground domestic surrogacy industry, driven by huge demand, while other Chinese couples are going abroad for surrogacy services.” Using this loophole, the surrogacy industry is being normalized as another means to have children in China and several western countries, while surrogacy is “banned” in most countries worldwide.