07/31/2009, 00.00
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Some 13 million abortions performed outside of China’s one-child policy

The overall number comes from hospital data, but it is likely higher because it does not take into account private clinics. Young unmarried women turn to abortion as a means of contraception. In the meantime a public debate is underway in the country about possible changes to the policy. A book with analyses by Chinese rights advocate Harry Wu on the negative impact of the one-child policy is published in Italy.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – About 13 million abortions are performed in mainland China on average each year outside of the one-child policy, this according to hospital data.

Nearly half of the women seeking abortions did not use any form of contraception, Wu Shangchun, a government official with the National Population and Family Planning Commission (NPFPC), was quoted as saying. But according to the China Daily, the number of abortions was probably higher since many women are known to have an abortion in unregistered clinics.

Although about 62 per cent of the women undergoing abortions were single and aged between 20 and 29, no year-to-year statistics are available so no trend can be discerned.

Experts agree in fact that these women need more information on contraception, especially because sexual activities before and outside marriage are rising as a result of more liberal attitudes towards sex.

The China Daily did not provide any information on forced abortion, a violent practice the State uses to enforce population controls.

Since the late 1970’s, the authorities made abortion compulsory to enforce China’s one-child policy. Government figures suggest that some 400 million births were thus avoided.

Now however a shift in thinking appears to be underway as a result of the negative effects of this policy (aging population, labour shortages, problems associated with one-child households), effects that had been forecast but which are only now becoming manifest.

Recently comments by Shanghai Family Planning Director Xie Lingli published on the front page of the China Daily seemed to suggest that the one-child policy might be relaxed. This was welcomed by many as the matter was debated in the media. Many experts in fact believe that without a new direction the country could face a major demographic challenge down the road.

Human rights advocate Harry Wu, a harsh critic of China’s laogai (re-education-through-labour) system and now a resident of the United States, has slammed China’s one-child policy.  

A book recently published in Italy reproducing some of his writings describes the negative human and social consequences of this policy on Chinese society and population.

Titled “Strage di innocenti. La politica del figlio unico in Cina” (The slaughter of the innocent, China’s one-child policy) by Guerini, the book documents the disruptive effect of this policy on traditional Chinese society, which had been based on large extended family units.

The book indicates that the NPFPC has about 520,000 full time employees to enforce the policy, plus another 83 million part time workers who provide additional help in maintaining a tightly knit web across the mainland.

The powers of the NPFPC are broad and include the power to decide how many children are  born in any given area. Local NPFPC officials do in fact decide which families are entitled to having a child and ensure the right number of births in any one year.

When rigorously enforced the policy means that women who become pregnant without authorisation are forced to abort. If they refuse they can be detained and have all their property seized.

The book notes that in 1980’s and 1990’s the authorities launched several sterilisation campaigns against women who had already met their child quota with the result that tens of millions of women were sterilised each year.

In addition to statistical data, the book provides analyses as well as testimonials.

At the end, an appendix offers an overview of the legal sources on which the policy is based.

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