China’s Abortion Restriction Raising Frustration

By Elizabeth Noh

Published Date: 2021 / 10 / 27


[Photo Credit: Council on Foreign Relations]

China’s State Council recently announced new guidelines concerning women’s rights and children’s rights and health. Among the guidelines was a portion that stated China’s government would work to reduce the number of abortions for “non-medical purposes,” a huge turnaround from the country’s history of pro-abortion policies. China’s now-abolished one-child policy was officially implemented in September 1980 and lasted 35 years until late 2015. Within this time, they advertised abortion as “safe, quick, and painless” to further slow their rapidly growing population. For three decades abortions were widely used across China, sometimes the abortions being forced to enforce the one-child policy. However, in recent years China’s government is addressing their projected population decline by promoting a pro-natalist view, as well as gender equality and education. Huang Xiaowei, the deputy director of the State Council's National Working Committee on Women and Children, stated: “The basic national policy of gender equality and the principle of giving priority to children needs to be implemented in depth.”
Now that this statement regarding restricted abortions is known, there is widespread frustration from China’s social media. One article about the mandate has over 40,000 comments under it. Women’s rights and Civil rights activists criticized the Chinese government for attempting to control female’s reproductive rights. Zhang Jing, founder of Women’s Rights in China, told VOA Mandarin: “From forced abortions in the one-child policy era, to forced childbirth in the three-child policy era, human rights, as well as women’s rights, were not taken into consideration in the formation of these population policies.” However, some argue that this new policy will rather bring about a positive outcome for China. Senior scientist Yi Fuxian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison expressed his desire for people not to overinterpret one sentence in hundreds of statements, and that he believes “it’s necessary to explore ways to increase fertility rate.”
However, some Chinese activists are frustrated with their government's handling of increasing birth rates. Lu Pin, a feminist activist, said that “Chinese women are always forced by the state and used by the state.” Discussion on the government’s view on gender equality and women’s human rights have now been brought to light because of this “reduced abortion” backlash. Award-winning journalist Leta Hong Fincher mentioned in an interview that the Chinese Communist Party’s history of pro-women's rights is “just rhetoric.” Her statement is supported by noticeable surges of gender inequality and discrimination in the workforce. China has also banned effeminate men from showing on TV and other media such as video games. To a large majority of Chinese women, the reduced abortion law is one out of many policies that oppress and control women’s lives.

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