Nation, page 16, issue 513
April 4th, 2011
Translated by Tang Xiangyang
Original article: [Chinese]
China has a powerful "family planning department". It can prohibit women from "giving birth," as in the "one child policy," and it can also prevent women from not
Last week, the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region's govenrnment submitted a new piece of legislation to the local People's Congress.
The new law included two items of note: the first, included provisions that ensured that only medical agencies approved by the health department are authorized to provide gender checks to unborn fetuses; secondly, women who are old enough to give birth, who conceived under "lawful conditions" and have been pregnant for over 14 weeks are not allowed to have an abortion, unless they can provide proof as to why they need one.
That is to say, women have no choice but to carry their pregnancy to term.
At first glance, this news reminded the author of America where the issue of abortion has been a topic of constant debate. Aside from religious concerns, American laws seek
to balance the right to life of the fetus and women's right to choose. In recent years, the issue has been highly politicalized and an individual's attitude toward abortion has become an indicator of political-orientation.
But unlike America, the abortion ban in China respects neither the right to life of the fetus nor the rights of pregnant women. It has only one goal: adjusting the country's skewed sex ratio.
For a long time after its founding, guided by the "strength in numbers" view, birthrates in China peaked.
Then, because the country had no choice, it issued a policy of "one couple one child."
The policy is indeed effective in controlling population growth. However, at this year's "two sessions," certain CPPCC members hinted that the policy might gradually be loosened over the next 5 years indicating an end to the infamous policy which displayed a complete neglect of human rights.
But if that represents a step forward, Guangxi's abortion ban is a huge step back.
Many Chinese provinces have a ban on abortions taking place after 14 weeks of pregnancy.
But as national family planning policies begin to relax, Guangxi's efforts to fortify existing laws appears alarmingly inappropriate. As the one-child policy is gradually lifted, China's family plan policy is experiencing an overall readjustment.
Respecting individual choice should be the basis of future policy-setting.
China does indeed face the challenge of an unbalanced sex ratio and indeed, some women are forced by their husbands to abort because of the sex of the baby.
Looking at it from this angle, there's a need to correct the sex imbalance and it's also important that we move to protect women's right to bear children.
But what will be this new abortion ban achieve these goals?
I'm not optimistic.
The abortion law is built on the idea that as of 14 weeks, a type-B ultrasound can reveal the sex of a fetus. Therefore, in order to prevent the abortion of female fetus, the proposed law will prohibit hospitals from carrying out abortions on women who have already obtained a "birth license," unless they first receive approval from the family planning department.
But the policy is full of loopholes. The author has learned from a source at the family planning department that many provinces don't require a "birth license" for the first child which means in effect that it's possble to have an abortion any time.
Additionally, if we can find out the sex of fetus via type-B ultrasound, couldn't parents simply choose to delay getting their "birth license" until after the gender of the fetus has been determined and thus easily circumvent the policy.
The policy also says that divorce or fetuses suffering from serious illness can lead to the approval of abortion procedures. Setting aside possible corruptions during the process of approval, the policy reminds this author of the fake divorces recently used to circumvent policies that restrict housing purchases.
People may also conduct fake divorces to abort a female fetus. Marriage and divorce costs are pretty insignificant.
Another weakness of of the new policy is the clause that says women who conduct illegal abortions are prohibited from giving birth for the following three years.
But, as micro-bloggers have pointed out, if a woman was to have an illegal abortion and then get pregnant once again, what would happen after 14 months?
To allow the child to be born would violate the rules. However, an abortion would also violate the rules.
To sum up, Guangxi's new policy not only neglects human rights but is also unenforceable. By issuing this policy, the family planning department will receive nothing but
This editorial was edited by Ruoji Tang and Paul Pennay