BEIJING, March 9 (Xinhua) -- China may be about to give some civil rights to fetuses.
Draft General Provisions of the Civil Law submitted to the ongoing annual session of National People's Congress (NPC) Wednesday describe the fetus as being entitled to some civil rights in terms of inheritance or gifts. If the fetus is stillborn, the capacity shall be deemed non-existent.
China's civil law currently recognizes the capacity for civil rights from birth to death, effectively excluding fetuses.
Some argue that recognition of a fetus can be found in Chinese tradition, where a "nominal age," still popular in rural areas and smaller cities, counts the new born as one year old. Nominal age is therefore one year more than actual age.
But the draft "marks the first time for the Chinese civil law to make clear stipulations on a fetus' capacity for certain civil rights," according to Yang Lixin, a leading jurist in civil law with Renmin University of China.
There is also growing consensus among legal experts that the law should afford some recognition and protection to an unborn child.
"In practice, we have seen cases where a fetus' civil rights are under-protected," said Yao Jianlong, a law professor with Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.
The capacity clause, however, does not mean that China will legally recognize a fetus as a human being.
A fetus being regarded as having the capacity for civil rights is different from granting the fetus a right to life, said Hou Xinyi, a law professor with Tianjin University of Finance and Economics and member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
Granting a fetus the right to life may impact on women's rights, said Hou.
Last year, the draft went through three readings at bi-monthly sessions of the NPC Standing Committee. It is rare for a draft law not to be passed after three readings.