Little change in practice for China’s one-child family policy

‘Rollback’ doesn’t mean end to forced abortions

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The Chinese government’s announced change in its one-child policy — which has been applauded in some quarters — is still garnering criticism for its links to human-rights violations, “gendercide” and forced abortions.

“There is still no real change in the brutal, abusive elements of China’s population-control program, in which women’s [menstrual] cycles are monitored by the government,” Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, said Friday.

“Even with the token changes,” the policy continues to mean that “pregnant women without birth permits — including all unwed pregnant women — are hunted down and forcibly aborted,” said Mr. Smith, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, global health, global human rights and international organizations.

The media’s misrepresentation about the policy change caused “widespread confusion, even in Hong Kong,” Reggie Littlejohn, founder and president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, said Friday night.

Ms. Littlejohn, who was in Hong Kong to give a speech, said in an email to The Washington Times that a woman’s rights activist “greeted me with the words, ‘I understand that the one-child policy has been canceled!’

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Ms. Littlejohn, whose coalition has brought gruesome testimonies about abortion abuses under the Chinese policy to Congress and the American public.

“The one-child policy does not need to be adjusted. It needs to be abolished,” she said.

Many news outlets wrote optimistically about the Nov. 15 announcement by Chinese Communist Party leaders that, as part of a national economic-renewal and social-improvement agenda, they were “easing” the country’s one-child family planning policy. The change — which affected only married couples in Chinese urban areas — said that if one spouse was an only child, the couple could apply for two birth permits. Under previous policy, both spouses had to be only children to get two birth permits.

In China, couples in rural areas are generally permitted to have two children. All couples must have a marriage permit to obtain a birth permit.

According to China Daily, Wang Pei’an, vice minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said the new policy “will help maintain a reasonable labor force and slow the pace of population aging, thus benefiting economic growth.” However, family-planning rules will continue — the state is not “relaxing” the policy, Mr. Wang later clarified to reporters.

Ms. Littlejohn said in a statement issued last week that Mr. Wang’s additional remarks held ominous implications for couples.

First, he said there was “no unified timetable” for implementation of the new policy, which means local officials will control the change, she said. More alarmingly, Mr. Wang suggested that if a region had a lot of couples who are eligible for a second child, local officials “should promote a reasonable birth interval to avoid birth accumulation.”

That “birth-interval” policy is “dreaded” by families, said Ms. Littlejohn, since it means that if a woman gets pregnant too soon, “she may be subject to forced abortion.”

Brian Lee, executive director of the Christian nonprofit group, All Girls Allowed, said the policy change is “a step in the right direction,” but does not address the problem of “gendercide” — sex-selection abortion and female infanticide — which has led to 37 million “missing” girls in China.

The one-child policy “degrades the value of women by saying that the government has the authority to control them,” said Mr. Lee. He urged Chinese leaders “to have the courage to make the change that needs to happen, which is to end the policy completely.”

The State Department “should make it clear that any sort of amicable relationship between our two countries is contingent upon the end of this abusive policy,” Nora Sullivan of the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute wrote Friday.

According to media and government reports, China’s population is 1.34 billion, and its fertility rate is around 1.6 children per woman, below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman. Initial estimates of the new policy said it might produce an extra 1 million to 2 million children, raising China’s fertility rate to 1.7 or higher.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.

Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...

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