By Women’s Rights Without Frontiers
“China abandons the One-Child Policy.” This is how the Chinese government announced its move to the Two-Child Policy, giving the misleading impression that all coercive population control had ceased. A close analysis of several reports coming out of China, however, demonstrates that Chinese government sources themselves inadvertently have admitted that forced abortion continues under the Two-Child Policy.
1. BBC. A May 4, 2016, BBC article entitled “Reinventing China’s Abortion Police” discusses a small collaborative project by Stanford University and Shaanxi Normal University to repurpose 69 Family Planning Officials — apparently on the assumption that they are no longer needed now that China has moved to a two-child policy. The article follows one Family Planning Official, Li Bo, who has been “reinvented” from “hunt[ing] down families suspected of violating the country’s draconian rules on how many children couples can have” into a rubber duckie squeezing, nursery rhyme singing “Chinese Father Christmas,” complete with “a bag full of toys and picture books.”
Has his job really been “reinvented,” or is he really a member of the womb police, masquerading as “Chinese Father Christmas” — the new face of China’s Family Planning Police? Buried deep in the article is the following account of the dark side of Li Bo’s job – an important piece of original reporting by the BBC:
Since the start of 2016, all Chinese couples have been allowed two children. But they can have no more than that unless they are from ethnic minorities – so Li Bo still spends some of his time working as a birth-control enforcer. In the town’s health clinic he is busy screening local women. All women of childbearing age have check-ups four times a year to ensure they’re healthy . . . and to see if they are pregnant. . . But Li is also a loyal Communist party official who believes the state knows best and society’s needs are greater than those of individuals. So he is matter-of-fact about the unpleasant task of telling women who couldn’t afford the fine to terminate their pregnancies. “People didn’t swear at us but they probably did behind our backs,” he says. “It’s natural because we were carrying out the law and they were breaking it so it is just like the clash between a policeman and a thief.” He adds that as long as restrictions are in place, such clashes will continue.
From these words, uttered by a Chinese Communist Family Planning Official, we learn that:
1) Coercive pregnancy screening continues. Under the Two-Child Policy, Family Planning Police continue to screen women of child-bearing age for pregnancy four times a year.
2) Forced abortion continues. It is still illegal for single women to have babies in China, and for couples to have third children. It appears that some may be given an opportunity to pay a fine, but Li Bo tells “those who couldn’t afford the fine to terminate their pregnancies.” In other words, if a woman is illegally pregnant and cannot pay the fine – which can be as much as ten times her annual salary – she is forced to abort. Forced abortion, therefore, continues under the Two-Child Policy.
3) Women pregnant without permission are considered criminals. Li Bo’s statement that women who are pregnant without permission “were breaking it [the law] so it is just like the clash between a policeman and a thief” demonstrates that such pregnancies are still considered illegal; and illegally pregnant women are regarded lawbreakers deserving of punishment, just like thieves.
4) Forced abortion continues to cause unrest. Li Bo is correct in adding that “as long as restrictions are in place, such clashes will continue.” This statement is an admission that these clashes – often resulting in forced abortion – continue to this day, due to the two-child restrictions.
2. Sixth Tone. A July 22, 2016, Sixth Tone article entitled, “Guangdong Families Told to Have Abortion or Lose Job,” discussed two Guangdong families. Both families were remarried. Both families were pregnant with a third child, when counting children from previous marriages. One family was told to abort or both husband and wife would lose their government jobs. The other family was told they must pay a fine of 260,000 yuan, the equivalent of $39,000 U.S. – “a huge amount of money” for this family. Read more about these couples here.
The fact that Sixth Tone is a state-controlled media outlet implies an admission by the Chinese government that it is continuing to forcibly abort women who get pregnant without permission.
3. China Women’s Federation. On August 3, 2016, an article appeared on womenofchina.cn, the English language website of the Communist Party-affiliated China Women’s Federation. The article, entitled, “Couples Not Waiting for Two-Child Policy,” stated: “Remarried couples in Guangdong province who are pregnant with their second child will not be forced to have an abortion, even though they have not yet been granted permission for a second child. The provincial population and family planning commission will also not suggest that employers dismiss or punish those who are pregnant with a second child without permission, the [provincial] commission said on Tuesday.”
It is unclear whether the statement of the provincial commission would affect the families whose plight is discussed in Sixth Tone. For both families, three children were involved. Will they be allowed to maintain their pregnancies without losing their jobs or paying a “terror fine”? Only time will tell.
Regardless, the Women’s Federation article goes on to quote demographer Zhai Zhenwu, who states, “the provincial commission did not violate any regulations when they did not force couples to have abortions.”
Why would the Chinese government need to clarify that government officials “did not violate” family planning regulations when they did not force couples to have abortions, unless forced abortion is continuing and indeed standard for unapproved pregnancies under the Two-Child Policy?
In addition, the Women’s Federation article quotes a remarried woman from Guangdong as saying, “Some wives who have been pregnant with their second child have had an abortion because they fear being dismissed by their employers.” The decisions of these married women to abort their second children rather than lose their jobs underscores the ongoing human agony and tragedy caused by coercive population control in China. Forcing women to choose between having an abortion and losing their jobs is a form of coercion. Women can be forced to abort by physical or financial coercion.
The Women’s Federation article concludes by noting that “the birthrate in [Guangdong] – which lacks a sufficient workforce and relies on people migrating from other provinces – has remained low for decades . . .” This is the real reason for the adjustment from a One-Child Policy to a Two-Child Policy. The Chinese government has not repented of its women’s rights atrocities. Rather, it fears the inevitable economic consequences of its 35-year history of coercive population control.
Forced abortion continues in China to this day, by admission of Chinese government sources, either through the words of its officials or its official publications. This atrocity must be eradicated from the face of the earth. With its population of 1.3 billion, one woman in five lives in China. The women of the world will not be free until the women of China are free. Women’s Rights Without Frontiers demands the immediate cessation of all coercive birth control in China.