Thirty-four years ago, China imposed its “one-child policy” across the nation, a policy that has been blamed for “causing more violence against women and girls than any other official policy on earth.”
The policy requires Chinese couples to have a birth permit before having a child, with most being allowed only one child. The enforcement of this policy includes birth quotas, invasive medical examinations for women, and, for those who get pregnant without permission, punishments that include exorbitant fines, destruction of homes and property, arrests, threats to their families and more. For women, it often means forced abortions and sterilizations. In some cases, women and family members have been killed or committed suicide.
Steven Mosher of the Population Research Institute, who began exposing the brutalities of the one-child policy after studying in anthropology in China in 1979, recalled seeing seeing “young women who were pregnant with ‘illegal’ children being incarcerated to await the abortions of their late-term pregnancies,” and “viable infants forcefully removed from inside their mother’s bodies while their mothers wept.”
Anne Roeback Morse of the Population Research Institute noted:
On September 25th, 1980, the Chinese government thrust population control upon every person under their sovereignty. Certain provinces in China had already started population control, and the tone for the upcoming decades had been set the year before by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping who said, “Use whatever means you must to reduce the population, but do it!” And in September of 1980, the program known as the One Child Policy began to be enforced throughout all of China. …
… These horrific violations of human rights were (and are) the direct result of the population control policy imposed upon the Chinese people by a tightly controlled political regime. China’s population control policy is not a governmental suggestion about family size; rather, it is an authoritarian mandate that dictates the timing and circumstance of reproduction. Although China recently allowed more couples to receive a second birth permit, the Chinese government still retains tight control over procreation, and human rights continue to be systematically violated en masse.
In 2012, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers president Reggie Littlejohn told the audience at a memorial for victims in communism that “the coercive enforcement of China’s one-child policy causes more violence against women and girls than any other official policy on earth and any other official policy in the history of the world.”
In her speech, Littlejohn named six reasons for this:
- Forced abortion is traumatic to women. This can happen up to the ninth month of pregnancy. Some forced abortions are so violent that the women themselves die, along with their full term babies. Forced abortion is official government rape.
- Women who have violated the policy are often victims of forced sterilization, which can lead to life-long health complications. These forced abortions and forced sterilizations are often performed without anesthesia.
- A document leaked out of China in November 2009 discusses methods of infanticide, including the puncturing of the skulls and injecting alcohol into the brains of full term babies, usually girls, to kill them during labor.
- Because of the traditional preference for boys, sex-selective abortion of girls is common — a form of “gendercide.”
- Because of this gendercide, there are an estimated 37 million more men than women in China today. This gender imbalance is a major force driving sexual slavery of women and girls in Asia.
- China has the highest female suicide rate of any country in the world – approximately 500 women a day. I believe this high suicide rate is related to forced abortion.
Funding Forced Abortions
While some may see this as China’s problem alone, the fact is that the United States and other Western countries are involved in this violence against women and girls through their financial support of international population control groups.
One such group is the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Beginning in 2002, UNFPA lost federal funding after investigations said the organization was complicit with the one-child policy. In response, the Canadian government increased their funding of UNFPA, and U.S. funding was later restored by the Obama administration despite warnings that this would mean funding forced abortions.
In 2011, more than 100 members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama asking him to cut off funding for UNFPA. The letter read, in part:
By now, it ought to be absolutely clear that UNFPA’s programs in China fully comport with Beijing’s cruelty toward women. Pursuant to the Kemp-Kasten provision, other administrations have appropriately denied all funds to the UNFPA. The one child per couple policy is inhumane and the most egregious systematic attack on women ever. … Swift and decisive action is necessary to correct an emerging pattern of your Administration’s disinterest in the human rights abuses that occur on a daily basis in China. …
Since you took office, $145 million in taxpayer funds ($40 million in FY11) have been allocated for the UNFPA despite their support for, and participation in, China’s brutal policy. That complicity must end.
Not only does the U.S. continue to fund UNFPA, but this year the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report upgraded China from a “Tier 3” nation which could be subject to sanctions to a better “Tier 2” nation ranking.
In an open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping, published on September 25, Littlejohn noted in that 2013, the State Department criticized the Chinese government for failing to take measures to prevent trafficking and to “address the effects its birth limitation policy had in creating a gender imbalance and fueling trafficking, particularly through bride trafficking and forced marriage.”
In fact, the State Department found that “the government continued to perpetuate human trafficking in at least 320 state-run institutions, while helping victims of human trafficking in only seven.”
Littlejohn wrote that the 2014 upgrade for China appeared to be based on a “technical modification” of the one-child policy that would “allow families with one single-child parent to have a second child,” — a change that the state-run news agency Xinhua said would effect very few couples, calling it “no big deal.”
As Littlejohn noted in her letter, the one-child policy:
“… has caused incalculable suffering to hundreds of millions of women and families of China. It is time for this policy to end. It will not work to replace it by a ‘two-child policy’ as some of your advisors may be suggesting. Rather, the one child policy should be eradicated from the face of the earth, because it has caused more violence toward women and girls than any other official policy on earth, and any other official policy in the history of the world. Your government has boasted that it has “prevented” more than 400 million births through this policy. These births have been prevented through forced abortions, involuntary sterilizations, confiscatory “terror fines,” gendercide and infanticide – all in violation of international human rights law.
Despite cosmetic changes, then, the people of China — both born and unborn — continue to be subjected to a brutal human rights atrocity. The fact that it has been a government policy for 34 years means it is long overdue for a change.
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), co-chairman of the U.S. Commission on China, (CECC) and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs global human rights subcommittee, called China’s one child policy announced in 1979 state sponsored violence against women and children—including and especially girls—and constitutes massive crimes against humanity. …
“Today in China, rather than being given maternal care, pregnant women without birth allowed permits are hunted down and forcibly aborted. They are mocked, belittled, humiliated and exploited. A mother has absolutely no right or legal standing to protect her unborn baby or herself from state sponsored violence,” he said. “There are no single moms in China—except those who somehow evade the family planning cadres and conceal their pregnancy. Beijing’s One Child Policy bans single moms from obtaining government permission to carry the child to term. For more than three decades, most brothers and sisters have been illegal.”
According to a report released in 2012 by the Chinese Center for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC), there were a staggering 590 female suicides per day in China, the only country in the world where the female suicide rate is higher than the male. The Beijing Psychological Crisis Study and Prevention Center determined that in China the suicide rate for females is over three times higher than for males.
“The result of this policy is a nightmarish ‘brave new world’ with no precedent in human history, where women are psychologically wounded, the girl child the victim of sex-selective abortion, and most children grow up without brothers or sisters, aunts or uncles or cousins,” Smith said.
Reggie Littlejohn’s Speech at the Victims of Communism Memorial Commemoration
Open Letter to President Xi Jinping
Forced Abortions in China: Crimes Against Humanity
Time to End Forced Abortion in China
Michelle Obama Needs to Defend Chinese Women
Promoting Abortion Will Increase, Not End, Violence Against Women
Man Killed by Family Planning Officials in China, Rights Group Reports