Surrogacy excluded from law, remains prohibited: health official
Chinese parents who bear a second child after January 1, 2016 will no longer be fined, according to the revised Population and Family Planning Law.
"The State advocates that one couple shall have two children," read the revised law passed by the Chinese legislators at a bimonthly session of the National People's Congress Standing Committee on Sunday, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
The newly revised law will take effect on January 1, 2016, said Xinhua.
The amendment comes after the Communist Party of China's Central Committee announced the scrapping of the decades-long "one couple, one child" policy in October to stabilize population growth and offset the burden of an aging population.
Since the late 1970s, couples in cities have been allowed only one child, and those in rural areas a second child if the first is a girl.
People who have more children than allowed would have to pay a considerable amount to cover for "social costs."
"The change reflects a mindset shift from 'controlling' to 'encouraging' childbearing," Wang Ming, a public administration professor at Tsinghua University and a member of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told the Global Times.
Wang noted that the policy change also reflects China's respect for childbearing as a basic human right, explaining that parents are encouraged to pursue their own benefit rather than making contributions to the country.
And the interests of parents who followed the one-child policy were also secured, Ma Li, director of the China Population and Development Research Center, a think tank associated with China's National Health and Family Planning Commission, told the Global Times.
Ban on surrogacy
The new law did not ban surrogacy, which appeared on the previous amendment draft together with the ban on trading sperms, ova, fertilized ova and embryos.
However, hospitals and medical personnel are still prohibited from conducting any form of surrogacy in accordance with State Council regulations, Zhang Chunsheng, a senior official of the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC), said at a press conference on Sunday.
Trading sperms, ova, fertilized ova and embryos are also forbidden by the State Council regulation, added Zhang.
The ban was included in the draft because present regulations have not sufficiently prevented the illegal activity, explained Zhang.
However, the complicated and controversial issue requires further feedback and study as the ban probably cannot root out the activity, and legislators have not reached a consensus as to whether it is necessary to include the ban in the law.
"It's a hasty decision to add the ban as many questions remain unsettled, such as the baby's ownership and other ethical issues," Zhai Zhenwu, a professor of demographics at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times.
Parents will be given extended maternity leaves and other benefits when their first and second child is born, said the new law.
Awards granted to parents who voluntarily have only one child before 2016 will continue, as well as the policy on providing subsidiaries and support when their only child is killed or disabled in an accident, Zhou Meilin, another NHFPC official said.
However, those subsidies will not be given to parents who voluntarily choose to have only one child after 2016, added Zhang.
Citizens who marry and give birth late can no longer enjoy an extension of nuptial leaves, said Zhang.
He explained that China no longer encourages late marriages and childbearing as the average age for first marriage and first childbearing is 25 and 26 presently.
Zhang added that delivering child at an advanced age is risky to both the mother and baby.
The law also allows couples of reproductive age to choose whether to use contraceptives and no longer requires couples to accept family planning services, Zhang said.