China's one-child rule has been disregarded by a wealthy couple said to have spent nearly a million Yuan, or $160,000, to conceive eight children.
The family, which has gone into hiding, enlisted two surrogate mothers and used in vitro fertilization to have four boys and four girls after years of trying to conceive, The Associated Press reported. The biological mother carried two of the children, while each of the surrogates carried three.
Shortly after the babies were born in September and October of last year, 11 nannies were reportedly hired to care for the children. A Chinese Central Television investigative report interviewed former neighbors, who described seeing a pack of nannies taking the babies for walks.
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The octomom and her husband are currently under investigation by the Guangdong Health Department; the department's media spokesman declined to reveal their identity for privacy reasons.
The case has captivated the Chinese public, pushing surrogate mothers (which are illegal in China) into the spotlight, and prompting a critical look at the country's family planning laws.
"People are very interested in the policy these days and the need for changes to it," Liang Zhongtang, a demography expert at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the AP. "A lot of people think it should have been dropped a long time ago, or relaxed at least."
Though the law in China prohibits the medical procedure of implanting an embryo in another woman, an underground market for surrogates is booming, and many online agencies offer to connect couples and surrogates. Chinese media reports say the procedure is also often done illegally at hospitals, the AP reported.
Some Chinese look down on surrogacy, which is often viewed as a method for the rich to avoid going through pregnancy. At online surrogacy agency Daiyun.com, however, business is booming.
"One thing is for sure, our business is getting better and better," a manager at the company who would only give her surname, Liu, told the AP. "More and more people come to us for services."