China has announced a plan to modify its one-child policy by 2015, allowing families to give birth to two children. Pro-lifers have long criticized the one-child policy as a violation of human rights. Pro-life leaders are rightfully skeptical that a two-child policy will be much better. Steven Mosher of the Population Research Institute, a Catholic pro-life center which has long focused on human rights abuses in China, writes:
Did the Party leadership finally begin to regret the massive and ongoing human rights violations that the one-child policy entailed? Hardly. It takes a pretty hardened leadership cadre to send mobile abortion squads to hunt down pregnant women, to arrest them for violating the one-child policy, and then to abort and sterilize them against their will. This has been going on for 30 years. It is highly unlikely that Hu Jintao simply woke up one morning wracked by guilt and said to himself, “This is wrong.”
No, the reason that the policy may be ended has nothing to do with human considerations at all, but with cold dollars and cents calculations. You see, as a result of the elimination of 400 million productive young people from the population over the past three decades, China now has a labor shortage.
Although Mosher doesn’t mention it, I wonder if the policy change was also influenced by the notorious gender imbalance that the one-child policy has caused. In a culture where sons are valued more than daughters, sex-selective abortion and female infanticide have created a population with millions of “missing” girls and “extra” boys. The ability to give birth to two children– and, with it, two chances to have a son– may help alleviate the problem. However, baby girls will only benefit if, by the luck of the draw, they have no more than one older sibling. In a country the size of China, no matter how aggressively the government pushes sterilization and birth control, it’s inevitable that some women will conceive more than twice in their lifetimes. Mosher continues:
[The two-child policy] will not eliminate the abuses, of course. Women will still be arrested for the crime of being pregnant, locked up until they give their consent for an abortion, and then aborted against their will. But these now will be women who are pregnant with their third child, not with their second.
Sadly, we are a long, long way from international acceptance of prenatal rights and women’s rights. If you are interested in learning more about these critical issues, and what you can do to help, I urge you to check out All Girls Allowed and Women’s Rights Without Frontiers.