Southern California a Hub for Birthing Tourism

Thursday, December 06, 2012
(photo: Michael Paulsen, Associated Press)

California puts a high premium on making itself attractive to short-term visitors with money to spend, but there is one form of “vacation” travel it would rather discourage: birthing tourism.

A large house in the San Bernardino County city of Chino Hills, allegedly home to a series of pregnant Asian women enjoying a brief stay, has attracted the scrutiny of neighbors and local authorities. It is suspected that the home is part of low-key industry that caters to foreign women who want to give birth in the United States to obtain U.S. citizenship for their children.

For the moment, the only official actions being taken against the Chino Hills home are unrelated to childbirth. Authorities have filed: a zoning violation cease and desist order that alleges operation of a hotel in a residential zone; a permit violation for construction of additional rooms; and an action over a 2,000-gallon sewage spill, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Times wrote about Southern California being a “hub of so-called birthing tourism” when it detailed in March 2011 the activities at a trio of four-bedroom townhouses in a San Gabriel neighborhood that were shut down. Authorities alleged the townhouses, which had 10 mothers and seven newborns, operated as an unlicensed birthing center.    

It is unknown how many people come to the U.S. annually just to give birth, but according to The Times, a local Chinese phone book has five pages of listings for U.S. birthing centers. One online Chinese website advertises a 30-day stay in Chino Hills for $10,500 to $11,500. NBC News found dozens of web sites around the world, including China, South Korea, Turkey and Eastern Europe, offering birthing trips to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami and New York.

Jay Chang, a consultant to nine maternity homes who has two children he had birthed in the U.S., told a reporter for McClatchy that birthing tourism was a growth industry and that there are more than 40 maternity operations hosting 1,000 women in the Los Angeles area along.

It is not against the law for pregnant women to travel to the U.S. and have babies, but, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, it is against the law to lie on visa applications about the purpose of a trip.  

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Chino Hills Seeks to Close Home Used by Pregnant Chinese Women (by Cindy Chang, Los Angeles Times)

“Maternity Hotel” in California Suspected of Housing Chinese Women Hoping to Give Birth in U.S. (by Katherine Bindley, Huffington Post)

In California, “Birth Tourism” Appears to Grow (by Richard Chang, McClatchy)

Born in the U.S.A.: Birth Tourists Get Instant U.S. Citizenship for Their Newborns (by Anna Schecter, NBC News)

“Birthing Tourism” Center in San Gabriel Shut Down (by Ching-Ching Ni, Los Angeles Times)

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