World

She kept asking 'Are we in US yet?'

Taiwanese woman may face fines for allegedly trying to give birth over US airspace for baby's citizenship

It was touted as a heart-warming story of a woman giving birth at 30,000 feet on board a China Airlines flight from Bali to Los Angeles.

But it was not that straightforward.

The woman, known only as Jian, had allegedly planned the delivery over US airspace, making the baby girl eligible for a US passport, Daily Mail Online reported.

She could face a fine of more than US$30,000 (S$41,750) - the cost of diverting the flight to another airport - if it is proved that she deliberately tried to give birth in the US.

Ms Jian claimed upon boarding the flight that she was 32 weeks pregnant.

That is the latest date expectant mothers are free to fly without a fit-to-travel certificate from a doctor under Taiwanese aviation regulations.

But she reportedly gave birth at 36 weeks.

She delivered above Alaska 30 minutes before the flight made an emergency landing at Anchorage Airport, affecting over 200 passengers.

A Facebook post made by one of the flight attendants who delivered the baby went viral, Shanghaiist.com reported.

The flight attendant, Ms Lucienne Chen, said the mother failed to inform both the airline and check-in staff that she was pregnant.

She also wrote that when the woman's water broke and she went into labour, she was advised to lie down and prepare for delivery. But she insisted she would deliver later and kept asking, "Are we in US airspace yet?"

Reports said that Ms Jian was se­parated from her baby on Saturday after the newborn was awarded US citizenship.

But Taiwanese authorities did not confirm the claim, saying they have not heard from their American counterparts.

The baby remains in Alaska with a family friend as she is too young to fly.

Ms Jian was deported by US immigration authorities, Shanghaiist.com reported.

Upon her arrival back in Taiwan, she was ambushed by the media. She covered her face and refused to answer their questions.

LIABLE FOR COSTS

Taiwan's Transportation Minister Chen Jian-yu told parliament that the mother will likely be liable for the costs of diverting that flight to Alaska.

The birth was captured on video by passenger Amira Rajput.

Passengers can be heard cheering when the baby was born.

Ms Rajput told ABC News that a border patrol agent came on the plane once they landed and asked to see the woman's passport.

She said: "He told me that this is something foreign women do, to try and deliver overseas for citizenship.

"This is a political issue. People die to come to this country."

Dr Angelica Zen, who delivered the baby, said: "It was very difficult. We had to work under very constraining circumstances."

CNN Money reported earlier this year that the birth tourism industry is booming in the US, with women paying thousands of dollars to fly there to give birth.

Leti Volpp, a law professor at University of California, Berkeley, told CNN that giving birth in the US offers security for the future.

"If things become economically or politically uncertain in one's country of origin, the children have a place to come to.

"The children can then sponsor their parents when they turn 21."

He told me that this is something foreign women do, to try and deliver overseas for citizenship.

- Passenger Amira Rajput, who filmed the birth

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