Strange Bedfellows — Chinese Communists and The Republican Party

by Daniel C. Maguire

The Republican Party and the Chinese Communists agree on this principle: when you are pregnant, the pregnancy is the government’s business, not yours.

orking on this principle in China, the Communist government may order a pregnant woman to abort. However, in the US, if the Republicans have their way as announced in their party platform, if you are pregnant, the government will order you to carry the fetus to term, no matter what the circumstances. And it seems that the Republicans are having their way, as evidenced by the well advanced whittling down of Roe v.Wade.

The statist principle endorsed by the Chinese Communists and the Republicans is this: a pregnant woman is not in charge of her pregnancy, the government is, and the government will tell her what to do about it. So the word is: get pregnant, and you are no longer in charge of your body. The State is…the government is….and you will take orders either to deliver (the US) or to abort (China). After you deliver or abort, you will then resume control of your body, but only for as long as you are not pregnant.

Who’s draconian around here?

The favored adjective for critics of Chinese birth policies is “draconian.” But who is really more draconian, the no-choice Republicans or the Chinese Communists? What is worse — forced pregnancy or forced abortion? Which position shows the least respect for the personal rights and dignity of women?

Chinese birth policies are more accepted in China than Westerners imagine. Professor Luo Ping, sociologist and director of the Women’s Studies Center at Wuhan University, cautions Western critics regarding China’s family planning goals: “Family planning must be implemented in a country like China where the size of the population puts too much pressure on the economy and on society....China is just like a small boat which can carry only 100 people but already has 110 in it.”

In a recent analysis, Chinese demographers said that the “one child” program had reduced births by 338 million. They point out the contribution this makes not only to China but also to an overstressed world. Had those 338 million gotten born, China would be below self- sufficiency in food grain production.As of 2001, China has reached a below-replacement fertility rate of 1.8. (2.1 is considered replacement.) China is also offering help to poor nations facing population pressures.

Much of China’s progress is due to contraception, not abortion. In the United States, 65% of couples are estimated to use contraceptives. In China, the rate is over 85%. Abortion rates in China are actually declining — from 14 million in 1991 to 6.7 million in 2000.

The new Chinese law on birth planning and population incorporates many of the humane and feminist provisions of the United Nations Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994 and the Beijing World Conference on Women in 1995.Article 3 of that law insists on “increasing the opportunity of women for education and employment, improving women’s health, and raising women’s status.”What’s more,Article 19 says that contraception, not abortion, is the main family planning method, and the law “strictly forbids” unsafe abortions.

Simply put, there is much in China that is not at all draconian. China had reached a critical mass of population growth, more than its land could sustain. It deserves a fairer judgment than much of the West has given it.

Draconia, USA

Sooner than sitting in arch judgment of China’s policy, why not let conscience start at home? Isn’t the US attitude toward women and children just a tad draconian?

Item: In Wyoming, a pregnant woman beaten by her husband needed hospital care. She, not her husband, was charged when the police found she had been drinking.

Item: In Georgia, a woman delivered a stillborn child two days after a severe beating by her boyfriend; she was arrested due to the discovery of cocaine in her blood.

Item: In Montana, abortion is listed as a crime, but a man’s killing a fetus through violence against the woman is not.

As Professor Jean Reith Schroedel writes: “Until the 1980’s district attorneys would generally not file charges against a batterer unless the victim pressed charges.”

In a 2003 report of Save the Children, the United States with all its wealth ranks below Canada, Australia, and all the western and northern European countries in maternal mortality and infant mortality rates. Bush tax cuts, generous to the rich, leave poor children behind.

Of all the candidates who could sit in pious judgment of China, once again, the United States does not rank first.


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