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China’s Egg Freezing Policy Is Under Fire

A national debate has erupted in China, sparked by a celebrity’s revelation and fueled by social media, around the reproductive rights of single women in the country of over 1.3 billion people.

It all started when actress and director Xu Jinglei revealed she had had some of her eggs frozen in the United States.

Under current Chinese law, only married couples — after supplying identification and birth certificates — are allowed to use “assisted reproductive technology”.

Although it is unclear if freezing eggs in itself is illegal for single women, what is clear is that single women are banned from using assisted reproductive technology. Officially, the practice is to prevent the trafficking of human eggs.

Popular blogger Han Han is among those stirring the online debate, asking "Why don’t women have the right to use their own eggs? Why can’t women use their productive rights?” in a Weibo post. The post was widely shared and commented on, and helped to spread the nationwide conversation.

China has been wrangling with population policies for decades, most notably with its “one-child policy”. A widening gender gap, graying population, and a growing tendency for women to delay marriage has threatened the government’s goal of creating a stable society based around traditional family structures.

Related: Despite changes to one-child policy, Chinese parents say having two kids is too expensive

China’s national health and family planning commission encourages conception for women in the “prime child-bearing years”, in a woman’s mid-to-late twenties.

Xu, who is now 41, had her eggs frozen in her late 30s, and told Chinese media she wanted to avoid “regret."