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Taiwan needs more babies. But conservative traditions are holding back some fertility solutions

Taipei, Taiwan CNN —

For married Taiwanese men Alan Hung and Danny Huang, the process of having a biological child together was never easy.

The couple dreamed of starting a family soon after tying the knot in 2019, around the time Taiwan became the first Asian jurisdiction to legalize same-sex marriage.

“Many of our friends already had their own children, and we also hoped we could show our parental love,” Huang said.

But gay men are not allowed to access artificial reproduction tools in Taiwan, so the couple – both university professors in their mid-40s – had to look abroad.

First, they spent more than a week at a fertility clinic in Russia, only to find out the procedure couldn’t be completed due to regulatory changes. Later, they found success with a surrogate in the United States – but with a hefty cost in excess of $160,000.

Cases like this are troubling to Chen Ching-hui, who last month became the first fertility specialist to win a seat in Taiwan’s parliament.

Hung and Huang with their baby boy, Aiden.

“Taiwan’s medical technology is well ahead of many other countries, so why are we making people spend large sums of money to travel overseas?” she said in an interview with CNN.

Same-sex couples and single women are banned from accessing procedures such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) or egg freezing in Taiwan, while surrogacy is outlawed entirely.

Now, Chen and others are pushing for a loosening of restrictions, in the face of a shrinking population that threatens not only the economy but also the island’s ability to defend itself against an increasingly assertive China.

While declining fertility is a problem for developed economies across East Asia, the problem is especially acute for the democratically