New two-child policy won’t be enacted in time to save pro-life leader facing pressure to abort
While the front pages of newspapers around the globe tout the end of China’s notorious one-child policy, pro-life leaders are hesitant to celebrate just yet. Details are scant, and a two-child policy will still lead to coerced abortions and sterilizations, they say.
Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers noted the Chinese government’s reason for ending the policy was based on purely economic concerns—China’s population is growing older as its workforce shrinks—and not on the basis of human rights. Changing the number of children allowed per family doesn’t fix the fundamental problem, she argues.
“The problem with the one-child policy is not the number of children ‘allowed,’” Littlejohn said in a statement. “Rather, it is the fact that the [Chinese Communist Party] is telling women how many children they can have and then enforcing that limit through forced abortion and forced sterilization.”
For one Chinese pro-life leader, Sarah Huang, the decision is personal. Huang (not her real name) is nearly four months pregnant with her second child and faces enormous pressure to abort. She said she was initially excited when she heard about the policy change on the nightly news and started getting a stream of congratulatory texts from friends and church members. But the more Huang researched the new policy, she realized it wouldn’t be the magic bullet she had hoped it would be.
The law wouldn’t apply to women already pregnant, which makes it useless in Huang’s case. Plus, an announcement of a policy change is a far cry from its actual implementation. Huang noted the government has discussed adopting a two-child policy since 2013, and it’s taken this long for leaders to make an official announcement. According to Chinese media, the policy changes must get approval from different government ministries as well as the National People’s Congress in March.
The new law would be implemented city by city, starting with bigger, first-tier cities then trickling down to mid-level and smaller cities. Mothers who give birth to their second children before the law is implemented in their cities would still be fined.
“By the time I’m allowed to apply for a birth permit for a second child, I’ll already be 40 and unable to have any more kids,” the 34-year-old Huang said jokingly.
Huang remains cautious, saying local officials often act on their own accord regardless of changes to the law. She’s personally helped women in rural areas dragged away for forced abortions even though Chinese law bans the practice. Huang, who faces an astronomical $35,000 fine for her second child, went into hiding last week when her husband’s employer demanded medical checkups for workers and their wives. The family has applied for travel visas to the United States, where Huang hopes to give birth to her baby.
Even if the Chinese government is finally seeing the serious issues created by the one-child policy, it may be difficult to throw off a 35-year-old institution, said Jonny Fan, a pro-life leader in Chengdu. The family planning bureau makes more than $316 million a year from fines collected from couples who give birth to more than one child, and employs hundreds of thousands of workers in every province. Once the one-child policy ends, the government would need to find work for many of these employees, a difficult task especially during China’s current economic turmoil.
Fan also noted decades of propaganda have already changed the mindset of an entire generation.
“Killing is easy, rebuilding is hard,” Fan said. “The culture of big families is changed forever. People have gotten used to aborting babies they don’t want, and [young people] no longer desire to have more children.”
— by June Cheng