California "Birthing Tourism" Center Shut Down

Illustration for article titled California "Birthing Tourism" Center Shut Down

A "birthing tourism" center in Southern California has been shut down, drawing new attention to the phenomenon of affluent Chinese and Taiwanese mothers traveling to the U.S. to give birth.

Discovering an entire house complex devoted to accommodating the mothers is a new development. The two four-bedroom townhouses were shut down for permit violations and unsafe structural changes. It's not illegal to travel to the U.S. for the express purpose of giving birth. The women who do so say they're seeking better educational opportunities for their children in the future. Here's how one company that offers the services works:

For the $14,750 basic fee, Zhou and Chao will arrange for a three-month stay in a center — two months before the birth and a month after. A room with cable TV and a wireless Internet connection, plus three meals, starts at $35 a day. The doctors and staff all speak Chinese. There are shopping and sightseeing trips.

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A US Embassy official told The Washington Post on background that it wouldn't be grounds for denying a visa, either. But in an atmosphere of anti-immigrant hysteria and the ugly term "anchor baby," it's easy for discussions to go awry. (Sometimes the xenophobes love the Chinese! And sometimes they just hate all foreigners.) Media Matters has criticized previous coverage of the phenomenon, notably an ABC News story that suggested a "new baby boom":

While the article reported in its third paragraph that "the number of U.S. births to non-resident mothers rose 53 percent between 2000 and 2006," it did not acknowledge until paragraph 14 that "[o]f the 4,273,225 live births in the United States in 2006, the most recent data gathered by the National Center for Health Statistics, 7,670 were children born to mothers who said they do not live here," or 0.17 percent of all live births in 2006.

In other words, Bill O'Reilly should reserve his ire.

'Birthing Tourism' Center In San Gabriel Shut Down [LAT]
Related: For Many Pregnant Chinese, A US Passport Remains A Powerful Lure [Media Matters]
ABC News' "Birth Tourism" Article Filled With Contradictions, Misleading Claims, Dubious Sources [Media Matters]

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DISCUSSION

A cousin of mine (on my Ecuadorean mother's side) and her husband came to the U.S. two years ago for the express purpose of giving birth.

Listening to my uber-conservative Foxbot mixed-family dance around the politics of this trip while trying to reconcile their own "anchor baby" hysteria was exactly what I thought it would be. Basically, they didn't think it was "right", but it was "okay" with this cousin b/c they "appreciate the U.S." Yes, that is a direct quote. In the end, it all came down to their personal knowledge that this cousin likes the U.S. I was unaware that there's a meter reading at which point Anchor Baby Alert goes from Code: Red to Code: Meh.

For the record, this cousin and her husband make bank, have enviable healthcare plans and basically gave birth in the US so they could have the best medical care available. They each have their Master's degree and work for a major, U.S.-based pharmaceutical company (basically they're testing every compound they can i.d. in the Amazon in search of cures for everything from cancer to the common cold). The birth cost US taxpayers nothing. And while here she stayed with her sister and BIL, both architects, with the wife also getting a MSW.

Just funny that the conversation was all "these anchor babies are taking advantage of the US!" and then they pulled a 180 when it was someone we knew. Of course.