Police are investigating a surrogacy agency which claims to have provided babies to more than 400 gay couples in an apparent violation of Chinese government regulations.
China’s Ministry of Health officially prohibited “any form of surrogacy” in 2001, but loose enforcement and vague stipulations, coupled with an increase in demand, have seen the industry grow to what is thought to be tens of thousands of surrogate babies every year.
Police in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province in South China, confirmed they had launched a probe into the local surrogacy firm called ‘Rainbow Baby’ after social media users began sharing images of its successful cases online.
Despite running a now shuttered public social media account, the agency’s operations went largely unnoticed and appeared to cause no controversy until 27th April, when online posts claimed surrogate mothers were accepting sperm from HIV-positive clients.
While Guangzhou police have not revealed further details about the investigation, a Rainbow Baby spokesman said they had suspended operations due to their being “knowingly unlawful”.
The incident has generated widespread public debate over the legality and ethics of surrogacy in China, which has technically been banned since 2001.
However, the health ministry’s regulation prohibiting medical institutions and health workers from practising “any form of surrogacy” was not followed up with any laws or judicial guidelines.
It means that, despite an apparent nationwide ban, no state-level laws exist, leaving municipal officials to ban or turn a blind eye to surrogacy at their discretion.
When health workers or hospitals are found to be in violation of the general regulation, institutes and doctors may be fined, but reports say there is no clear guidance about how to punish surrogate mothers, clients or intermediary firms such as the one currently under investigation.
Rainbow Baby claims to have successfully provided more than 400 childrens to male sex-sex couples since 2015.
It became an officially registered firm in Guangzhou in 2018.
Its spokesman, whose name has not been disclosed, told local media: “We have full agreement from all of our surrogate mothers, and all of them are paid, including intermediaries.
“I know it’s unlawful, but if it’s outlawed in China, they’ll go do it abroad.
“If you were homosexual and had no interest in women, but at the same time you’re an only child and your family was desperate for you to have a baby, what would you do?
“There is no other option besides surrogacy. It comes from a deep desire to have a family.
“If it were me, I’d do everything in my power to have a baby of my own, even if it means selling my house.
“Those are basic Chinese values.
“And there is a huge demand. Those who need it totally understand; those who don’t need it are against it.”
Jingsh Law Firm lawyer Xiong Chao commented: “We would have to conclude that it is illegal, even though China has no specific laws to regulate surrogacy.
“Judging by the principles of public order and morals, it is still not tolerated by the state.
“These institutes will need to be investigated by market regulators as soon as possible, but there will also be other consequences for individuals involved, such as for illegal practice of medicine.”
The issue of legalising surrogacy faces legal, ethical and social challenges, but legal experts agree that an all-out ban could drive the operations underground.
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