Abortion Debate Thwarts U.S. Fight Against China’s One-Child Policy, Activist Says

Karen Schuberg | March 16, 2010 | 9:37am EDT
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China says its one-child policy, initiated in 1979, has helped to reduce the country’s population by 300-400 million people. (Photo: Shanghai Population and Family Planning Commission)

(CNSNews.com) – Feminist and human rights activist Nicole Kempton says the contentious abortion debate in America partly explains why American leaders are reluctant to denounce China’s “one child” population-control policy.
“It’s hard for any American administration to address the one-child policy in China, number one, because when it’s talked about in this country, it winds up being portrayed as part of the abortion debate,” Kempton told CNSNews.com. Forced abortion and forced sterilization are not a choice, she added.
Kempton is the Washington director of the Laogai Research Foundation, which was founded in 1992 by a Chinese dissident to investigate and document human rights abuses in China’s prison camps (laogai).
Kempton said environmentalists and zero-population-growth advocates also share responsibility for discouraging American criticism of China’s one-child policy. “There are people who don’t understand the human consequences of the policy, who say that the world should have the one-child policy, and we should be applauding China for their draconian approach to population control,” Kempton said.
As CNSNews.com reported in December, even Chinese government officials tout the “one child” policy as a successful way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are blamed for global warming.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Copenhagen climate conference, Zhao Baige, vice minister of China’s National Population and Family Planning Commission, said developing countries should consider adopting similar policies in the pursuit of “sustainable development.”
But according to Kempton, environmentalists may not realize the extent of human rights violations China’s one-child policy engenders through its institutionalized violence against women.
The United States also is reluctant to jeopardize its trade relationship with China, Kempton said. “I think probably our economic relationship probably does have something to do with it and probably is the reason why we don’t speak out at a national level against the policy.”
CNSNews.com asked Kempton why feminist organizations such as National Organization for Women (NOW) and Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPF) do not express more outrage about the oppression and violence directed against women in China.
Kempton reiterated that objections to China’s one-child policy should focus on human rights and should not be turned into an abortion debate.
“Personally, I am pro-choice, and I don’t know why these organizations don’t get more involved in this issue. I mean, it is something that affects one-fifth of the world’s women,” Kempton said.
“I would really like to see—particularly in the United States—I would like to see us put aside our differences on pro-life or pro-choice and just agree that this is not a choice and that we need to help the Chinese women and speak out against the policy,” Kempton said.
CNSNews.com asked Kempton if she thought feminist organizations are concerned about the selective abortion of female babies due to the traditional Chinese preference for sons. Presently, men outnumber women in China by 37 million.
Although Kempton said she could not speak for NOW or Planned Parenthood, she speculated that in opposing all violence against women, they would condemn brutality against “women who are trying to have children or violence against baby girls.”
“I think that those organizations, they oppose violence against women in any form, and this—the one child policy—whether it’s violence against women who are trying to have children or violence against baby girls and the gendercide that’s currently going on in China -- I would assume that they would be against both of those,” Kempton said.
Kempton said one unintended consequence of the one-child policy is a “tsunami of human trafficking” in Asia, where women and girls are brought into China from North Korea, central Asia, Vietnam, Guyana, and Eastern Europe to meet demand for brides.
In a Jan. 7 article posted on the liberal Huffington Post Web site, Kempton praised Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s commitment to “put women and girls at the center of U.S. foreign policy.”
But, said Kempton, China’s one child-policy continues to fly in the face of the 1994 Cairo conference, “which represented the first truly global commitment to women's rights.”
China took part in the Cairo conference, but 15 years later its women are still under threat from coercive population control, Kempton wrote. She called it an “unprecedented State intrusion concerning women’s reproductive choices.”
Kempton urged Clinton to speak against China’s coercive population control in her Jan. 8 address marking the 15-year anniversary of the Cairo conference. Clinton, however, did not mention China or the one-child policy in her Jan. 8 speech.
China instituted its one-child policy in 1979 in an attempt to boost economic development by reducing the population burden to increase per capita income.
Also see:
China Says ‘One Child’ Policy Will Be ‘Strictly Enforced For Decades’ (July 30, 2009)
Chinese Minister Links ‘One-Child’ Policy to Emissions Reduction at Climate Conference (Dec. 11, 2010)
Selective Abortions, Birth Restrictions Continue to Distort China’s Gender Ratio (April 10, 2009)
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