With a flourish, Communist China announced November 15 that it will ease its long-time policy of allowing most couples to have only one child. But critics of China's population control strategy said that the government's brutal practice of forced abortion will continue. China's Xinhua news agency reported that under the policy, implemented in 1980, couples will be able to have a second child if one parent is an only child. Previously both parents had to be only children, while rural couples have been allowed two children if the first-born is a girl.
“China will implement this new policy while adhering to the basic state policy of family planning, according to the decision on major issues concerning comprehensively deepening reforms, which was approved at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC [Communist Party of China] Central Committee held from Nov. 9 to 12 in Beijing,” reported the official state news agency. “The birth policy will be adjusted and improved step by step to promote 'long-term balanced development of the population in China,' it said.”
While major media in the United States framed the change as a significant easing of restrictions on births, in fact only around 10 million couples out of a population of over 1.35 billion in China will have the option of a second child, with forced abortions and sterilization continuing unabated.
“The whole coercive system is still unchanged,” said Bob Fu of the U.S.-based human rights group ChinaAid. “Unless the whole family planning system is abolished, Chinese women and men will continue to suffer the cruelty of forced abortion and forced sterilization.”
Baptist Press News reported that China's Communist Party “claims the policy prevented 400 million births and helped lift countless families out of poverty. But the strict limits have led to widespread forced abortions and sterilizations by local officials, even though Beijing officially claims such measures are illegal. Couples who flout the rules face hefty fines, seizure of their property, and loss of their jobs.”
Reggie Littlejohn, the woman who heads the group Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, which has played a significant role in exposing the brutality and violence underlying China's one-child policy, warned that there will be little waning of forced abortion and other violence against women and couples under the updated policy. “The problem with the One Child Policy is not the number of children 'allowed,' she said. “Rather, it is the fact that the CCP is telling women how many children they can have and then enforcing that limit through forced abortion, forced sterilization, and infanticide.”
Littlejohn stated that despite the number of children the communist government allows a couple to have, “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, even up to the ninth month of pregnancy.”
She added that the supposed instituting of a two-child policy will do nothing to stop gendercide in China. “Indeed, areas in which two children currently are allowed are especially vulnerable to gendercide, the sex-selective abortion of females,” she noted. “According to the 2009 British Medical Journal study of 2005 national census data, in nine provinces, for 'second order births' where the first child is a girl, 160 boys were born for every 100 girls. In two provinces, Jiangsu and Anhui, for the second child, there were 190 boys for every hundred girls born.”
She said the study concluded that sex-selective abortions accounted for the majority of the excess males. Because of gendercide, “there are an estimated 37 million Chinese men who will never marry because their future wives were terminated before they were born,” Littlejohn said. “This gender imbalance is a powerful, driving force behind trafficking in women and sexual slavery, not only in China, but in neighboring nations as well.”
The Chinese watchdog group All Girls Allowed noted that the policy change will also overlook single mothers in China. “What about the mother who cannot obtain a birth permit simply because she is unmarried?” the group wondered in a statement. “In June, the world watched the dramatic rescue of the 'sewer baby,' whose mother was unmarried and gave birth in a toilet for fear of the authorities. Or what about the families that are eligible to have a second child, but get pregnant too soon? Under current law, many couples must wait at least four years to have another child. The restrictions are oppressive and unnecessary.”
The group charged that the “foolish and cruel policy should have been abolished in its entirety yesterday, not merely tweaked today.”
Littlejohn said that various news reports that China has relaxed its official one-child policy “are detrimental to sincere efforts to stop forced abortion in China, because they imply that the One Child Policy is no longer a problem. In a world laden with compassion fatigue, people are relieved to cross China’s One Child Policy off of their list of things to worry about. But we cannot do that. Let us not abandon the women of China, who continue to face forced abortion, up to the ninth month of pregnancy. The One Child Policy does not need to be adjusted. It needs to be abolished.”