China population policies still coercive, critics say
WASHINGTON (BP) -- China's lifting of its "one-child policy" does not eliminate the heinousness of its population control program, pro-life critics say.
All married couples in the world's most populous country will be able to have two children, China's Communist Party announced Oct. 29 at the close of its Central Committee meeting, Xinhua News Agency reported.
The "one-child policy," as it has been known, has generally restricted Chinese couples to a single offspring since its imposition in the late 1970s, although exceptions have been permitted in recent years. The magnitude of the program -- which included forced abortion and contraception, as well as reports of infanticide -- was illustrated two years ago. At that time, Beijing reported the following statistics since 1971, when it began population limits: 336 million abortions performed; 196 million sterilizations conducted; and 403 million intrauterine devices inserted.
Increasing the child limit for couples in China does not eradicate the coercion basic to the regime's population control, critic Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women's Rights Without Frontiers, said.
"The problem with the one-child policy is not the number of children 'allowed,'" Littlejohn said in a written statement. "Rather, it is the fact [the Communist Party] is telling women how many children they can have and then enforcing that limit through forced abortion and forced sterilization.
"Women will still have to obtain a government-issued birth permit, for the first and second child, or they may be subject to forced abortion," she said. "Regardless of the number of children allowed, women who get pregnant without permission will still be dragged out of their homes, strapped down to tables, and forced to abort babies that they want."
Leaders of a joint legislative and executive branch commission on China also found little reason to rejoice in China's announcement.
"[N]o one should be applauding the Chinese government for its new policy," Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., said in a written release. "It is not a major change. The government is still limiting the size of Chinese families and the coercive structure of fines, permits, pregnancy monitoring, and birth targets remains. Families who want a third child will still face the pressure to abort their child or pay exorbitant fines.
"The new policy doesn't change the underlying brutality of China's population control policies nor does it offer justice to the victims of the horrific crimes of forced abortion or sterilizations."
Sen. Marco Rubio, R.-Fla., joined Smith in criticizing the new policy. Smith is chairman of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China, while Rubio serves as co-chairman.
Rubio described the change as a "modest improvement" but added, "A two-child policy is as indefensible and inhumane as a one-child policy, and it would be a mistake to assume this change in any way reflects a newfound respect for human rights by Beijing."
All three -- Rubio, Smith and Littlejohn -- called for the United States to work to bring an end to forced population control in China.
Meanwhile, All Girls Allowed, a Boston-based organization working to end China's coercive program, took a different approach. It urged Bejing to adopt an all-children allowed policy, but it also commended "the Chinese leadership for taking this courageous step to publicly abolish a policy that has caused so much physical, emotional, and spiritual damage to the families in the nation."
China's Communist Party, in announcing the change, said it is designed to help with balancing the population and meeting the challenge of an aging citizenry. China's legislators are expected to ratify the revision in March, Xinhua reported. Until then, local authorities are expected to enforce the "one-child policy," the National Health and Family Planning Commission said Nov. 1, according to Xinhua, the government's official news service.
China is reaping the harvest of its population control program. China's fertility rate of 1.66 per woman is far short of the 2.1 level needed to sustain population levels, according to the United Nations, Bloomberg News Service reported last year. China's labor population -- which consists of people between 16 and 59 years old -- dropped in both 2012 and 2013, according to the report. A Chinese government researcher had said in October 2014 that the regime planned to relax its population-control program within two years.
Exceptions to the "one-child policy" program increasingly have been permitted in recent years. The limit in urban areas is one child, but two children are allowed to families in rural areas, if the first is a girl. Parents in cities may have second babies if at least one parent is an only child. Couples who violate the policy face the possibility not only of large fines, job loss and imprisonment but of forced abortions or sterilizations.
While Beijing says the program has prevented 400 million live births and raised many families from poverty, the restriction has produced widespread reports of even late-term abortions forced upon mothers by authorities in some localities. The coercive abortions are performed normally on female babies, because of the Chinese preference for sons. Sex-selection abortions and infanticide have resulted in dramatic differences in the female and male birth rates in the country.