Without a Choice: The effects of the one child policy in China

“Some people have said that time is the best medicine and time can heal everything. But this is not the case for me: as time goes on, the suffering is getting worse and worse and memory is getting clearer and clearer,” testified Wujian (not her real name) before the United States Congressional Human Rights commission on November 10, 2009. Wujian represents one of the countless victims aggrieved by China’s One Child policy. Time has intensified Wujian’s grief and also deepened the consequences that are a result of this policy in China like gender imbalance, female suicide, and an uncertain economic future.

Instigated in 1978, the One Child policy developed due to concern about a shortage of resources with an ever-expanding Chinese population. The One Child policy dictates that families obtain a birth permit before getting pregnant and have no more than one child unless otherwise allowed.

When Wujian discovered her pregnancy, she described becoming “very fearful since I did not have the Permit for Pregnancy or the Birth Permit, which means, according to Chinese law, this baby was not allowed to be born into this world. This baby would have to die in my them.”

An estimated 13 million abortions take place every year in China, but the children who do manage to quietly slip by the Chinese Family Planning police without a Birth Permit  face tentative futures. Underneath the cheerful veneer of having just one, happy child exists a whole population of ‘illegal’ children. These children are not officially recognized by the state because their parents did not gain a permit for their birth. Since the government does not acknowledge that these children exist, they are denied access to education and healthcare. Without the necessary documents like a birth certificate, these illegal children grow to adulthood often encountering difficulties in obtaining jobs and marrying. 

Even though Wujian tried to hide, Family Planning government officials discovered her pregnancy and “put my father into the detention center and beat him every day…until I went to the local hospital to get feelings.” Women in China suffer from a lack of post-abortion counseling, leaving psychological scars to fester and giving possible rise to depression that has led approximately 500 women every day commit suicide. China leads the world in the female suicide rate, accounting for 56% of all the world’s female suicides, and remains the only nation in which more women than men kill themselves.

China also faces some dire economic consequences as a result of the One Child policy.
The abundance of cheap labor that has fueled China’s booming growth as an economic powerhouse will soon dry up. Each generation will average approximately 20% fewer workers than the previous one due to the number of aborted children. In 1999 there were 10 active workers per retiree; that number is expected to drop to 3 workers per retiree by 2050, creating a strain similar to what the United States has been experiencing with the long-term financing of the social security system.

Wujian said that after the surgery, “one nurse showed me part of a bloody foot with her tweezers… Immediately the baby was thrown into a trash can.”

Unfortunately, your tax dollars support this atrocious practice in China. The Omnibus Appropriations Act FY2009 funds the United Nations Population Fund that works with the Chinese government, the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International to implement the One Child policy. To stop this expenditure of American taxpayers’ money, please take a moment to deny funding to the UNFPA by signing the petition to your representative and senator at http://pop.org/petition-unfpa-sign-pop