In the last week, a horrible story about a Chinese woman forced to undergo an abortion while 7 months pregnant has caused quite the upheaval in China and in the rest of the world.
Since 1979, China has reinforced the one-child policy as a strategy to control a fast growing population. There is however exceptions to the one-child policy, such as a second child may be allowed if the firstborn is female. In terms of controlling and reducing the population, the policy has been successful. But there have been many subsequent consequences related to the policy. For example, female infanticide and forced abortion has become increasingly common as male children are deemed more desirable. The ratio of females to males in the nation is also very uneven, as is the overall age of the Chinese population (described as the 4-2-1 problem where one child will be required to care for two parents and four grandparents as they age).
As unrepentant pro-choicers, we feel that women should have the right to make their own decisions concerning their bodies and reproduction, and this includes the choice to carry, give birth to, and care for your own child as well. The problematic notion of the one-child policy not only highlights women’s extremely limited reproductive choices and reproductive rights, but also gender inequalities, as well as inequalities influenced by a person’s social class and status.
Typically, women who already conceived one child are required to pay a fine if they give birth to a second child (unless the first child is female, in which a male heir is deemed needed). In this case, the young woman and her family did not have the financial means to pay the fine. When money is what stands between whether you have the right to decide over your own body, or in this case, whether the government has the right to decide, it creates a class divide and ultimately an “it’s your own fault” stance since the woman was personally unable to pay the fine. It also creates an us vs. them position in which the wealthy are allowed to reproduce, but the poor are not (sounds very similar to eugenics). Even though the one-child policy is extreme in its reinforcement, it hits those hardest who are already disadvantaged, women, girls and those living in poverty. The notion that a woman is forced to undergo an abortion at 7 months is not only inhumane and coercive, but it also underlines the struggles of poor women in comparison to wealthier women.
Women’s bodies are often assumed property in one way or the other. In many instances we are not only told what is best for us, but we are also influenced, preached to, or forced to make choices. It is time for women to be able to make their own decisions, based on their own choices, without being punished for doing so. In the case of the one-child policy, female infanticide and forced abortions is a prize too high to pay.