China to ban surrogacy programs
January 1 marks the official end of China's one-child policy that for 36 years has forced couples to limit their offspring to slow the country's population growth.
Last week Chinese authorities also decided to drop a plan to ban surrogate motherhood. Now aspiring parents can seek the help of Chinese women to act as surrogate mothers to gestate and give birth to their children.
If China had banned surrogacy, only those Chinese wealthy enough to hire surrogates overseas, in countries such as the United States, would have been able to use the practice.
The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, which is the main law-making body in China, decided last week to withdraw the draft legislation for banning surrogacy. The move was surprising because China rarely reverses itself on a draft law after it has been publicized. Such a move could be seen as the government being indecisive, which could hurt its public image.
“Some members of the Standing Committee argued the surrogacy cannot be totally forbidden,” Zhang Chunsheng, head of legal affairs at the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said at a news conference.
Even if there was a law banning it, "rich people would still be able to go abroad to countries where surrogacy is allowed," Zhang said.
Surrogacy usually costs between $125,000 and $175,000 in countries such as the United States. The cost is somewhat less expensive in other countries, such as Thailand, India and Nepal, sources said.
Infertility rates rising
Some legislators argued that domestic surrogacy should be allowed because infertility rates are rising in China, and many aspiring parents need the option to have their own babies. A ban would only encourage the vast black market in the surrogacy business, which often results in exploitation of women, legislators said.