A recent China Central Television report found that underground surrogacy businesses are thriving in many cities including Beijing, Wuhan and Guangzhou. Illegal surrogacy agencies talk young women--mostly around 20 years of age, many being college students and some still in high school--into selling egg cells, and even bearing a child for clients.
China has banned surrogacy, but weak enforcement has undermined legal efforts toward prohibition. Some of these underground agencies are even conducting trans-regional business. Others openly publish advertisements online.
While surrogacy may help infertile couples realize their dream of having a baby, its negative impact on society in ethical and legal terms, coupled with concerns related to surrogate mothers' physical and psychological health, makes the business a much-condemned one in China. Debates on whether surrogacy should be legalized have thus become heated.
Hai Lin (www.chinanews.com): Surrogacy is actually not a new issue in China. In 2001, the authorities passed two regulations on assisted human reproduction, which prohibit paid surrogacy and the trade of sperm and egg cells. But the law is rather soft with regard to surrogacy practitioners--those who violate regulations face only a fine not higher than 30,000 yuan ($4,830).
It's no exaggeration to say that the rampancy of illegal surrogacy can be mostly attributed to slack legal enforcement. Although the authorities used to launch intensive crackdowns and some illegal surrogacy agencies have been put out of business, such efforts have not up to now been sufficiently consistent and sustained to curb the practice. Therefore, the matter of making the price paid for breaching the law higher is an urgent one.
Zhang Weibin (opinion.huanqiu.com): Artificial insemination technology has brought hope to couples plagued by infertility. However, as surrogacy inevitably leads to ethical problems and legal disputes, China's health authorities have banned the practice.
Narrowly speaking, illegal surrogacy is dangerous and harmful to the health of surrogate mothers. The clients served by underground surrogacy agencies can have a rather cruel nature. Some only want a son and compel the surrogate mother to abort if the embryo is found to be female. This is beyond absurdity to the point of being morally grotesque, and is inhumane in the extreme. Broadly speaking, surrogacy, which involves ethics and the law, may affect social stability and the future of this nation. Therefore, the authorities have reason to intervene.
To crack down on illegal surrogacy, it is important to develop a full complement of laws related to assisted reproduction, and severely punish infringements of these laws.