HomeoldPressure building on China to review “One-Child Policy”

Pressure building on China to review “One-Child Policy”

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When even the New York Times publishes stories with headlines like “Reports of Forced Abortions Fuel Push to End Chinese Law,” you know something is afoot. Edward Wong, writing in Sunday’s Times, brings home a reality that I suspect few New York Times readers had ever considered: that forced abortions in the 7th and 8th month are not an aberration, but part and parcel of China’s repulsive “One-Child Policy,” which is built around forced abortion and coerced sterilizations.

The informational dam broke, so to speak, with Feng Jianmei. Mrs. Feng and her husband, Deng Jiyuan, who have one child, were unable to pay the $6,300 fine when she became pregnant with a second child. In late May Mrs. Feng was snatched off the street, held by local officials in northwestern Shaanxi Province for three days, blindfolded, and coerced her to consent to the abortion. ”Even with the supposed consent, it took five men to hold her down and administer the drug that induced the 48-hour labor,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ). “The injection was given directly to the child’s head.”

Since that time, thanks to photos posted by Mr. Deng on the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, local authorities have apologized and a debate has begun about the wisdom of a policy that is not only ethically corrupt but (according to many who have no opinion on forced abortion) is hurting the country.

Mr. Wong’s story (which can be read at www.nytimes.com/2012/07/23/world/asia/pressure-to-repeal-chinas-one-child-law-is-growing.html?_r=1) begins Pan Chunyan who was almost eight months pregnant with her third child when she was locked up with two other women, taken to a hospital and

“forced her to put her thumbprint on a document saying she had agreed to an abortion. A nurse injected her with a drug.

“’After I got the shot, all the thugs disappeared,” Ms. Pan, 31, said in a telephone interview from her home in the southeastern province of Fujian. ‘My family was with me again. I cried and hoped the baby would survive.’

“But after hours of labor, the baby was born dead on April 8, ‘black and blue all over,’  Ms. Pan said.”

But the bulk of Wong’s article is how, having thrust the issue of forced abortion into the spotlight, these hideous human rights violations have ignited an outcry to repeal or fundamental alter the policy that so penalizes families for having more than one child. The key is that this human rights issue is being buttressed by pressure coming from other fronts “as economists say that China’s aging population and dwindling pool of young, cheap labor will be a significant factor in slowing the nation’s economic growth rate.”

Those are the reasons for optimism. The ending of Wong’s story, however, explains why there are reasons to be less hopeful. For example, local authorities forced the abortion even though the couple paid the “fine.”

In addition, Mrs. Pan’s husband had traveled to Beijing to seek advice how to file a lawsuit. “But in the last week, neither he nor Ms. Pan have answered their cellphones, raising suspicions that officials from Daji may have intimidated them,” Wong writes.

“As for the future, she said she and her husband did not plan to try having another child again. ‘We both feel like we almost died,’ Ms. Pan said, ‘or lost half of our lives.’”

China’s “One-Child Policy,” introduced in 1979 to control population growth, has faced increasing scrutiny and pressure for review due to its far-reaching social and economic consequences. Originally designed to alleviate resource strain and boost economic development, the policy has led to significant demographic challenges, prompting both domestic and international calls for reform.

Demographic Challenges

One of the most pressing issues resulting from the “One-Child Policy” is the rapidly aging population. With fewer young people entering the workforce, China faces a shrinking labor pool that threatens its economic growth and sustainability. The dependency ratio, or the number of non-working (dependent) individuals compared to the working-age population, has increased, putting additional pressure on social services and the healthcare system​.

The policy has also contributed to a significant gender imbalance. Cultural preferences for male children have led to higher rates of female infanticide and sex-selective abortions, resulting in millions more men than women. This imbalance poses long-term societal issues, including difficulties for men finding spouses, which can lead to social instability​.

Economic Implications

Economists and demographers warn that the aging population and shrinking workforce could result in a “demographic time bomb.” The reduction in the working-age population limits economic productivity and innovation, while the increasing number of elderly dependents raises the cost of healthcare and pensions​. This shift threatens to impede China’s economic momentum and its ability to sustain rapid growth.

Policy Adjustments and Criticisms

In response to these challenges, China has gradually relaxed the “One-Child Policy.” In 2015, the government announced a shift to a “Two-Child Policy,” allowing all couples to have two children. However, the impact of this policy change has been limited. The high cost of living, housing, education, and healthcare continues to deter many couples from having more children​​.

Critics argue that these adjustments are insufficient and advocate for the complete abolition of birth restrictions. They emphasize the need for comprehensive reforms, including support for families, affordable childcare, and improved social services, to encourage higher birth rates and stabilize the demographic structure​​.

International Perspective

The international community has also pressured China to review its population policies. Human rights organizations highlight the ethical implications of the “One-Child Policy,” including forced abortions and sterilizations. These practices have raised significant human rights concerns and drawn widespread condemnation​.

Future Prospects

China’s leadership acknowledges the demographic challenges but remains cautious about fully liberalizing birth policies. The government is balancing population control with the need for sustainable development and social stability. Ongoing debates within China suggest that further reforms may be on the horizon, but the pace and extent of these changes remain uncertain​.

In conclusion, the “One-Child Policy” has had profound and lasting effects on Chinese society. As demographic and economic pressures mount, China faces increasing calls both domestically and internationally to reassess and further relax its population control measures. The future of these policies will significantly impact the nation’s social and economic landscape for decades to come.


Daniel Miller is responsible for nearly all of National Right to Life News' political writing.

With the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Daniel Miller developed a deep obsession with U.S. politics that has never let go of the political scientist. Whether it's the election of Joe Biden, the midterm elections in Congress, the abortion rights debate in the Supreme Court or the mudslinging in the primaries - Daniel Miller is happy to stay up late for you.

Daniel was born and raised in New York. After living in China, working for a news agency and another stint at a major news network, he now lives in Arizona with his two daughters.

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