“Cheap, government-funded, and common.” That’s how The Atlantic’s Emily Matchar, currently living in the People’s Republic of China, described Chinese abortion policy last week in her piece outlining varying abortion laws worldwide.
By contrast, Matchar describes the newly passed law in North Carolina, her home state, as “stunningly restrictive.”
For the unaware, the North Carolina legislature recently passed both the Safe Harbor for Victims of Sex Trafficking bill (SB 683) and the Health and Safety Changes Act (SB 353). The legislation addresses minors who are victims of sex-trafficking, requires abortion facilities to meet increased health and safety standards, and protects the conscience rights of health care workers who object to participating in abortion. The new law also bans sex-selective abortion – lethal sex-discrimination usually carried out against girl children. And yes, from Columbia University to the University of California-San Francisco, there is evidence that sex-selective abortions are happening in the United States.
Matchar surveys abortion laws across western and eastern Europe, Israel, and elsewhere before arriving at the conclusion that:
“…the least restrictive country is probably China, where abortion is completely legal (and often encouraged, to combat overpopulation) throughout pregnancy. This ad for “Korean-style” three-minute abortions , which would cause fits of apoplexy in my Southern hometown, speaks to the country’s un-conflicted attitude towards the procedure. But given China’s restrictions on having more than one child, it, too, can hardly be described as a bastion of reproductive freedom.”
Matchar’s casual dismissal of China’s abusive and inhumane One-Child Policy and it’s horrific fruits – forced abortion and sex-selection abortion – is sadly reflective of our nation’s general ambivalence to what should be a universally agreed upon outrage.
If Matchar considers the Chinese attitude towards abortion as “un-conflicted,” it is perhaps because she hasn’t heard of Feng Jianmei, who last year was forced by government officials to abort her wanted child at seven months gestation. A photo of Feng with her baby, who would have had a 75 percent chance of survival at that point, lying lifeless by her side, sparked a momentary outcry from the western world. The event led to the suspension of three One-Child Policy officials and an official apology to Feng from the Chinese government. As if words could ever right such a wrong.
Since Feng’s ordeal, forced abortions in China have once again received little attention from the mainstream media, but that doesn’t mean it is not happening. Chinese human rights activist and lawyer Chen Guangcheng testified before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs in April and held up a list of Chinese officials he alleges are responsible for at least 130,000 forced abortions in China.
130,000 children forcibly killed inside their mother’s womb, 130,000 women forever wounded.
Hardly a bastion of reproductive freedom, indeed.
The reality is that the One-Child Policy routinely violates the dignity of women and children and has created a culture that completely devalues human life and – due to a cultural preference for sons – especially the lives of baby girls.
Although sex-selection abortion is technically banned in China, the Lozier Institute reports that in 2005, the national Chinese sex ratio at birth (number of boys per 100 girls) was 118.9. In some provinces, this number exceeds 130. These skewed ratios (the naturally occurring sex ratio at birth is about 103-106 baby boys per each 100 baby girls) are indicative of sex-selection abortion and even infanticide. The implications for such a demographic makeover are dire as Mara Hvistendahl notes in her book Unnatural Selection. China’s aging population, shrinking young labor pool, and dramatic gender imbalance is leading to an inevitable economic and cultural crisis. Make no mistake, the myth of overpopulation should by now officially be debunked – and Matchar should not be repeating it.
To say that abortion is merely encouraged in China – and “to combat overpopulation,” to boot! – is a sad commentary on the value our own culture affords to individual lives and the human rights of those living in other countries.
And as a nation, we are effectively sabotaging the efforts of human rights activists like Chen Guangcheng and others who look to the United States as a beacon of human rights leadership. Our government continues to pour millions of taxpayer dollars ($47 million in President Obama’s 2012 budget) into programs like the UNFPA, which helps to implement and enforce China’s abuse “family planning” policy. Through our taxpayer dollars therefore, we are complicit in the death of each child and the violence visited upon each woman.
From Charlotte to Shanghai, women deserve better. If Americans still desire for the United States to be a human rights leader, we must condemn China’s routine violations of the dignity of women and children through both our words and actions. It’s time for the American “un-conflicted” to start feeling conflicted.