I wrote recently about the draconian abortion laws in Northern Ireland. With the recent announcement by the Chinese government that it is about to abandon its one child policy in favour of a two child policy, I’d like to discuss the other side of that coin…what happens when planned parenthood is directed, engineered and enforced by the state.
The one child policy was introduced in 1979 in response to a misguided Malthusian fear that the population, which was then experiencing a surge in growth, would outstrip the economic means to sustain it. These measures were introduced not through education but through blunt force. As a result they were applied patchily and inequitably. The Chinese government found it notoriously difficult to regulate, for example, its enforcement in the vast areas of rural China. Nevertheless, where it was applied, it was often done so brutally…forced abortions and violence were some of the measures used by local officials. The consequences of this were the notorious killing fields, areas of unused land that became a dumping ground for unwanted new born baby girls. This was done with the tacit acceptance of all, so that those affected might be free to try again for a boy. Such acts were barbarous to be sure, but they were often not straightforward. The necessity of a male to help work the land was often a factor in a family’s continued survival, a fact the government recognised by allowing rural farmers to have a second child if the first was a girl. Such measures were sadly not enough to prevent the killing fields.