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Pregnancy crisis

Pregnancy crisis

Guan Junze (center) and his grandparents take their souvenir picture in front of the Tiananmen Gate in Beijing Nov. 2. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters/Landov)

After forcing the abortion of hundreds of millions of babies, the Chinese government abolished in late October its notorious one-child policy. The change is an answer to prayer for urban Chinese families yearning for a second child, and yet the new two-child policy will still lead to forced abortions and sterilizations.

For the past 35 years, China’s grand population control experiment has wreaked havoc and jeopardized China’s future. To meet birth quotas, local family planning officials have kidnapped pregnant women and forced them to abort their babies, a practice now officially banned but still continuing in rural areas. Due to a preference for baby boys, China currently has 27 million more men than women between birth and age 35, and the surplus of bachelors has led to an increase in sex trafficking and mail-order brides.

Economically, the country is seeing its elderly population balloon as its working population shrinks: The United Nations estimates China will lose 67 million workers from 2010 to 2030 while its elderly population increases from 110 million to 210 million: China will be the first country in history to grow old before it grows rich.

The government’s given reasons for relaxing the one-child policy focused mainly on economic factors, although the policy has grown increasingly unpopular in recent years, especially as news of forced abortions spread through social media. In 2012 a photo of Feng Jianmei next to the body of her dead baby, forcibly aborted at 7 months gestation, went viral. Facing criticism from both Chinese netizens and international media, Chinese officials banned late-term abortions, fired the family planning officials responsible, and publicly apologized to Feng.

Once the change is implemented—which could be months or even years from now for some regions—couples will be able to have two children, thus slashing the number of abortions. Yet Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers points out coercive tactics will not disappear: The government is still “telling women how many children they can have and then enforcing that limit through forced abortion and forced sterilization.”

Pro-life leader Jonny Fan of Chengdu said the change is an advance for the pro-life movement as the government acknowledges the problems its policy has caused, yet the 35 years of family planning propaganda has left its mark on the Chinese people, with abortion normalized and one-child families seen as the ideal. Even when China relaxed the one-child policy in 2013 to allow couples a second child if at least one parent is a single child, only 12 percent of the eligible couples ended up having a second child.

“Killing is easy, rebuilding is hard,” Fan said. “The culture of big families is changed forever. People have gotten used to aborting babies they don’t want, and [young people] no longer desire to have more children.”