Sunday marked the anniversary of an oppressive law that has resulted in almost 40 million “missing” women and some of the most egregious human rights violations in recent history. Thirty-one years ago, on September 25, 1980, the Chinese government instituted a population control policy that prohibits almost all Chinese couples from having more than one child and forbids unmarried women from giving birth. Enforcement of the law has subjected Chinese women to forced abortions and involuntary sterilizations and helped in tipping the country’s demography toward a dangerous gender imbalance.
Last Thursday, Representative Chris Smith (R–NJ) held a subcommittee hearing of the House Foreign Affairs, calling China’s policy “the most egregious systematic attack on mothers ever,” before hearing testimony from women who experienced firsthand the horrific implementation of China’s plan to limit the population.
Ping Liu, a former Chinese factory worker and immigrant to the U.S., spoke to the committee about the intense government surveillance of women of reproductive age. “We had no dignity as potential child-bearers,” she explained of her time in a textile factory where routine mandated pregnancy tests and suspicious co-workers alerted state authorities to her five pregnancies, each of which she was forced to end through abortion.
Chai Ling, a human rights activist and founder of All Girls Allowed, relayed her own experience of enduring three coerced abortions and testified to the extent of China’s gender imbalance. China’s one-child policy, coupled with a cultural preference for boys, has led to a “gendercide” of Chinese women. According to All Girls Allowed, sex-selective abortion, abandonment, and infanticide have result in 37 million “missing” girls.
Dr. Valerie M. Hudson, professor at Brigham Young University, also outlined the serious social consequences of China’s self-inflicted demographic crisis. Hudson remarked that through a “profound devaluation of female life,” China is left with a gender imbalance that will reap many “negative social repercussions.” Increased crime, substance abuse, violence against women, and gang activity, she predicted, will likely mar China’s future as millions of young Chinese men are demographically prohibited from settling down into the socializing institution of marriage.
Although the human rights violations embodied in China’s one-child policy have garnered recognition from the State Department, U.S. leaders have recently acted to diminish concern over the abuses. The anniversary of China’s one-child policy comes just a few weeks after Vice President Joe Biden condoned the heinous law in a speech to Chinese leaders. Likewise, the United States has reinstated an annual funding stream for the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), which is complicit in supporting China’s family planning objectives.
For years, the U.S. withheld funding to UNFPA under the Kemp–Kasten amendment that prohibits U.S. international aid from supporting coercive abortion procedures or involuntary sterilization. In 2009, however, Congress exempted UNFPA funding from the Kemp–Kasten language and has since sent tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to UNFPA, with the most recent allocation in the fiscal year 2011 continuing budget resolution providing $40 million to the organization.
Concerns about UNFPA donations were multiplied by a report released earlier this year, which identified the organization among four of the United Nations’ largest aid agencies found to have stockpiled a total of $12.2 billion in unused donations in 2009.
Inclusion of the funding in a recent YouCut competition illustrates public reaction to the United States’ subsidy of UNFPA during a time of fiscal uncertainty. In May, a proposal by Representative Renee Ellmers (R–NC) to eliminate UNFPA funding won the first round of YouCut, a grassroots initiative allowing voters to choose where Congress should reduce wasteful government spending. Ellmers’s proposal, which she has introduced as a bill, would save $400 million over 10 years by zeroing out U.S. contributions to UNFPA.
As the nation falls deeper into debt, action must be taken to limit government spending. Policymakers would be justified in reconsidering funding of organizations supportive of China’s one-child policy before another anniversary marks the oppression of more women and the loss of millions more children.