Every 2.4 seconds, a woman in China undergoes a forced abortion because of the communist nation's one-child policy, totaling about 35,000 abortions a day, a panel of four experts said Tuesday.
"Over 400 million children are not living in China because of the one-child policy," said Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women's Rights Without Borders. "That's more than the population of the United States."
Tuesday's panel discussion -- dubbed "No Choice Allowed" -- featured Ms. Littlejohn; Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican; Chai Ling, a leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests; and Capt. Xiong Yan, another Tiananmen leader. About 70 people attended the discussion, which was held in the Rayburn House Office Building.
Mr. Smith, who has been calling attention to the issue since 1982, said the one-child policy is "the most egregious human rights violation," which is little-known outside China.
"Many people in America know about the one-child policy but don't know it leads to forced abortions," Ms. Littlejohn said, describing how women in China are dragged to hospitals and strapped to beds for abortions.
The panelists said they each have had personal contact with victims of forced abortion in China. Ms. Littlejohn used to be an attorney for Chinese refugees seeking help in the United States, many of whom shared their stories of forced abortions.
"It just broke my heart, so I left the law to devote my time fully to this issue," she said.
China enacted its one-child policy in 1978 to curb its mushrooming population.
In an interview after the discussion, Mr. Smith said that with increased education and literacy, people in China would decide to have fewer children on their own. He pointed out that the trend can be seen in places that emphasize education.
"But [population control] never has to be through killing a child," he said.
Panelists said that Chinese demographers have expressed fears that the one-child policy could lead to economic and social disaster in a few years.
Still, other countries with population problems are considering copying China's model because of the aid and credibility it gets from U.N. Population Fund, Mr. Smith said.
Dr. David Aikman, a former reporter for Time magazine who was in Beijing for the Tiananmen Square protests, ended the discussion by telling the story of an elderly Chinese man who said to him, "Thank you for being here to tell the world what the Chinese government is doing to the Chinese people."
He said the same to the panelists, hoping the discussion would keep the issue fresh in the public's mind.
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