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    Single Mother Stigma Hoped to be Ended by Chinese Woman Advocating for Fertility Rights

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    Teresa Xu is fighting for her reproductive rights in China. She was denied an egg-freezing treatment at a Beijing hospital because she was unmarried. Xu filed a lawsuit against the Beijing Obstetrics and Gynaecology Hospital in 2019. Under current guidelines, single women are not allowed to freeze their eggs, with assisted reproductive technologies only available to married women with fertility issues. However, policymakers are reconsidering the guidelines due to historically low birth rates. Xu hopes this will allow single women to have more childbirth options.

    Xu spent her twenties and early thirties focused on career development but was constantly reminded of women’s fertility decline with age. Despite being warned by her lawyers of a slim chance of success, Xu filed a lawsuit after being denied the treatment in November 2018. She says she is motivated by a desire to change the negative images of single mothers often found in Chinese film, television and literature.

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    Childbirth out of wedlock is relatively rare in China, partly due to social stigma and cases of local authorities punishing women through fines or denying the child legal registration. Facing demographic headwinds, China further loosened family planning regulations in 2021, allowing married couples to have up to three children after decades of enforcing the controversial single-child policy which ended in 2015. But same-sex couples remain barred from marriage and adoption, and surrogacy is illegal.

    Xu hopes that all single women can achieve bodily autonomy and reproductive autonomy and that everyone is allowed to have the space for making independent choices.

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