China’s Black Market Reproductive Clinics

Published on Author Kit


Back in March,  the Beijing Health Bureau raided a Dongcheng clinic illegally offering assisted reproductive services. The clinic was officially registered to offer cosmetic medical services but nothing in the reproductive medical field.

According to reports, the clinic charged one million yuan ($161,000) for assisting in the successful birth of a baby. The price jumped higher, if the family desired a boy for obvious cultural reasons. Additionally the Dongcheng clinic offered illegal gender diagnosis to guarantee the birth of a boy by a surrogate mother. This is a peculiar business strategy as it is difficult to come through on such a promise but is no doubt a lucrative black market offering in China.

Wang Shuyu, from Beijing Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital is an expert on assisted reproductive technology at, warned of the health risks associated with black market reproductive services. Reproductive services are inexpensive at Beijing hospitals but they do not offer sex diagnostics. This is where it is easy for black market reproductive services to  emerge and provide analysis for curious parents in waiting.

This quote from Quartz explains the structure of these black market clinics:

“Anyone with an ultrasound machine and a ob-gyn textbook can get into the baby-scanning business. The gang profiled in the news report carried out ultrasounds, with the option of aborting then and there, in a minivan. Ultrasounds cost 800-1,200 yuan ($128-$193) and abortions cost 3,800 yuan. The local judge on the case noted that most of those performing these procedures had no medical licenses, and that legitimate medical institutions worked as middlemen, sending customers their way. The barriers to entry are fairly low since pretty much anyone can buy an ultrasound machine. In fact, one medical technology rep told the Global Times that they were his best-selling machine.”

Earlier in March, four people were sentenced to between one and three years in prison for carrying out over 700 illegal ultrasounds and 15 gender-selective abortions in Zhejiang. This group was headed by Liu Ciwang and his wife Huang Xiaomiao. Neither of these two had medical licenses but that did not stop them from charging 800 to 1,200 yuan for gender analysis or 3,800 yuan for induced abortions. All of these services were rendered from their minivan. This is an interested fact when compared to all the discussions we have had in class about the difficulties of obtaining a drivers license and car in China.

Illegal gender testing and  abortions also have ill-desired outcomes for China’s population. There is now a disproportionate gender ratio in China. Because of the one-child policy and the preference for males there are 100 girls for every 118 males in China. This means that the lucrative black market reproductive services could lead to an imbalance in marriages as men will not be able to find wives.



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3 Responses to China’s Black Market Reproductive Clinics

  1. The prevalence of selective abortion in China is interesting and controversial, especially considering their one-child policy. The media skewed the recent policy changed by claiming they have become more relaxed, trying to calm the critics who have been raving about the policies influence on abortion rates. In reality, the policy is still relatively the same, with the only difference being that if the husband or wife are an only child, they are allowed to have two children. The Chinese labor force dropped by about 3.45 million year on year in 2012, marking the first ever decrease for the nation. The policy is projected to continue to decrease the labor force by about 29 million over the current decade, which is a large number that should not go unrecognized.


  2. There are so many concerning things with this article! Chinese health clinics are already not the best in the world, the fact that they are performing abortions already seems incredibly dangerous to the mother. Additionally, you would think since many people are living urban lives now and are not dependent on their sons doing all the manual labor, it is ridiculous that they are still getting rid of just girls. I think the one-child policy is far better than having these black market clinics.

  3. Even though more and more people in China live in an urban setting, do you see key leaders of the party being made up for girls? Men make up roughly 40% of the government in China and that trend is increasing. As women search for more opportunity to lead in China, how might this impact the one-child policies and stances on gender selective abortion?