China’s One-Child Policy Promotes Human Rights Abuses

Noting “China is relaxing its 34-year-old one-child policy, which prohibits most families from having more than one child,” to allow “[p]arents who themselves do not have siblings … to have two children,” blogger Max Fisher writes in a Washington Post opinion piece, “The policy is controversial for a number of reasons, but maybe the one that Americans hear about most is the practice of forcing abortions on mothers who become pregnant with an unapproved second child.” He states, “The awful persistence of forced abortions, sterilizations and infanticide in China reflect a contradiction in the Chinese system — and in the one-child policy itself,” noting, “The senior leadership in Beijing may set national policy, such as today’s relaxation of the one-child policy, but it’s local- and provincial-level officials who choose when, whether and how to actually enforce those policies.”

“Here’s the contradiction in the one-child policy: Chinese officials want to keep down the birthrate, which is why they enacted the policy in 1979 and have kept it ever since,” Fisher continues, adding, “But they also want to forbid state officials to enforce the policy with forced abortions and sterilizations, which are rightly loathed as horrific human rights abuses.” He asks, “If they conclude that they can’t keep down the birthrate without using forced abortions and sterilizations, which of their two orders do they disobey?” He concludes, “This contradiction is why human rights groups have been arguing for years that the only real way for China to end forced abortions and sterilizations is by ending the one-child policy. And they’re probably right” (11/15).