In 2009, "Octomom" Nadya Suleman became a media sensation when she gave birth to octuplets. Now China has an "Octomom" of its own, a woman who's reportedly had eight babies, both naturally and with the aid of surrogates. Since Chinese law limits couples to just one child, reports of this woman's brood have prompted disbelief, controversy, and legal investigation. Here, a guide to the "bewildering" case:
Who is this Chinese Octomom?
Details are hazy, but she and her husband appear to be a wealthy couple from the southern city of Guangzhou. The woman's story first gained attention when a photograph of her eight children, clad in matching onesies and hats, was used as an advertisement for a photo studio. The image quickly prompted investigation. According to Guanghzhou's government-run newspaper, the woman carried two of the babies to term herself, and enlisted two surrogates, each of whom gave birth to three children, to fill out her brood. The babies were all reportedly born in September and October 2010, and 11 nannies were enlisted to care for them.
Is this for real?
Seemingly. Some have dismissed the story as a media hoax, but an official with the local health department says the case is real and being investigated. The couple was not identified out of respect for their privacy. According to the Chinese media, the woman and her babies are now in hiding.
How serious is China's one-child policy?
Very, but it can be skirted. The policy has been in place since 1978, though wealthy Chinese sometimes flout the law, paying the fines or securing foreign citizenship to work around the ban. And though China has prohibited doctors and hospitals from implanting a couple's embryo into a surrogate mother since 2001, there's still a "thriving… underground market" for surrogacy. Many agencies that match surrogates and couples looking to have children skirt the law by arranging to have the embryos implanted overseas.
How are Chinese people reacting?
China Daily's Fei Ezri is using this case to rally against surrogacy, saying that if the practice were legal it would give rise to a "breeder class," with "poor women renting their wombs to wealthy people." Ezri writes that "surrogate pregnancies also reinforce the outdated belief that a woman is only a baby-producing machine." Bai Yansong, a popular Chinese news anchor, found the story surreal. "Heavens. To have one family with eight kids ... in an era of family planning where most people have just one, the contrast is just too much." Liang Zhongtang, an expert in demography with the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, says this story is causing many to question China's strict family-planning laws. "People are very interested in the policy these days and the need for changes to it," he tells the Associated Press. "A lot of people think it should have been dropped a long time ago, or relaxed at least."