Monday, May 14, 2007

Abortion In China

Interesting read at nytimes about single women getting abortion in China. They really do need to get on the sex education bandwagon if they want to have family planning - despite the deep prudishness of the culture.

The point I want to make about abortion in China though relates to the "old" face - women getting forced abortions. People often criticize China for this practice, calling it a human rights violation, but they rarely attack the idea behind the one child policy itself.

It seems to me that there are three ways to enforce such a policy 1) prison terms for offenders, 2) hefty fines impoverishing both parent and child, and 3) forced abortion. Given those choices, and especially for a developing country in which most of the penalties will be meted out on the rural poor, option 3 seems the least harmful to me.

Yes, the one child policy is coercive - that's the whole point of it. Then again, taxation is also coercive; if you don't pay, you go to jail. The freedom to have a child may be a fundamental right, but it's already abridged once you have the policy; the question is whether it's justified. Given the fact that it hasn't stopped China's population growth (particularly in the countryside) and has led to many illegal, unreported children, you could argue the policy is a failure, in which case it clearly is unjustified. On the other hand, India's population is slated to overtake China's, so there probably has been some population restricting effect.

I certainly don't know what the right solution is, or even what the costs of unchecked population growth would actually be (I suspect they would be less that the costs of the one-child policy), but when we criticize the policy, we should be clear about what aspect of the policy is objectionable, and to my mind, it's not the forced abortions.

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