Fertility clinic pulls ad featuring victim of domestic abuse after backlash

Society & Culture

A reproductive health clinic in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, is experiencing some online backlash regarding its recent advertisement that features a female victim of domestic violence.

In the advertisement, a couple and their two kids can be seen posing happily for a family photo. Next to the picture is a brief introduction, which says that the mother in the photo is Fàn Guìlán 范桂兰, a woman from Ji’an, who suffered from infertility issues for 14 years. There is a quote from Fan in the ad, which says, “I used to be a subject of ridicule in my village because of my inability to get pregnant. I endured domestic violence for as long as 14 years.” The ad also displays a QR code for viewers to scan, which leads to more details about how Fan “altered her fate through pregnancy.”

It is the work of the Nanchang Huashan fertility center, which claims to have a special interest in the treatment of infertility. While it’s unclear whether the woman in the ad is a real patient of the clinic or a fictional character, the core message is clear: Infertile and childless women are inferior to their peers who have kids and they deserve to be made fun of or abused by their partners for their failures to conceive.

The internet, as you might have suspected, strongly disagreed. Many internet users found the ad exceptionally sexist, jarring, and tasteless. One Weibo user commented (in Chinese), “Women are not breeding machines. Childless marriages can be happy as well.”

On February 26, the Beijing News published a commentary (in Chinese) on the controversy, accusing the clinic of perpetuating the regressive yet popular ideas that reproductive responsibility falls solely on women and female infertility is an inherent flaw that needs to be fixed. “Reproductive rights are basic human rights for women. Our society should never assesses a woman’s value based on whether or not she is married and has children,” author Méi Táng 梅堂 wrote.

Facing intense backlash, the clinic has taken down the ad, citing that complaints about the ad resulted from a “misunderstanding.” The center’s obvious attempt to reduce its horrendous sexism to a harmless gaffe was also called out by Mei, who cautioned that the removal of the ad doesn’t mark the end of widespread societal discrimination against infertile women and women who choose to be childless. “Women’s rights to make reproductive choices should be protected and reinforced more and more,” he argued.