A leading international pro-life activist says China's latest attempt to stop sex-selective abortion by restricting ultrasound screenings, will not address the epidemic's real cultural and legal causes.
“As long as people are not allowed to have the number of children that they want to have, it's going to be a big problem in China,” said Joseph Meaney, Human Life International's Director of International Coordination, in an August 10 interview with Vatican Radio.
“In China, one is not allowed to have more than one child unless certain parameters are met,” he explained. “The government doesn't offer many options for that. So people want to have sons, and they abort their baby girls – and they get ultrasound scans to determine the sex of their children.”
China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported on August 8 that the government was “vowing to harshly crack down on sex-selective abortion for non-medical purposes,” in order to address a serious demographic imbalance. Newborn Chinese boys now outnumber girls by nearly 20 percent – and both supporters and opponents of the one-child policy agree that abortion makes the imbalance possible.
Beijing's 10-year “Outline for the Development of Chinese Children” says the government should promote gender equality and regulate ultrasound scans. Xinhua's August 8 announcement of the plan stated that “illegal sex-selective abortions thrived in many parts of the country until the government launched several crackdowns.”
But Meaney said previous campaigns against gender-driven abortion had been ineffective.
“The first regulation that was put against sex-selection abortion came out in 2003. Since then, China has been adding 1.1 million extra boys to girls, every single year. And they've arrived at the point of having over 37 million more males than females, under the age of 25. This problem is just growing and growing.”
China's communist government has stated that it intends to leave the one-child policy largely in place. It blames other factors, especially a bias toward sons for the sake of maintaining family lineage, for the violation of its existing laws against sex-selection.
Meaney, however, says China's strict population controls have caused its death toll to be worse than that of other Asian countries where the same cultural factors exist.
“The main origins of the problem are cultural,” he stated. Nevertheless, “the smaller family sizes that are being enforced by the government in China exacerbate the problem.”
“Certainly China is the country with the highest ratio of surplus men – or, the highest numbers of sex-selection abortions. So clearly there is something special going on in China that is not going on in other countries.”
The surplus of men creates problems for both sexes. Men find it harder to marry, while women – whether Chinese or foreign – become victims of the exploitation that often results.
“The principal effects of a scarcity of women are not empowering for those women,” Meaney noted. “Generally, what has happened is the trafficking of women, prostitution, increases.”
So does kidnapping, and the tendency to find a foreign bride from a poorer country. But foreign wives, Meaney said, “are actually treated very poorly by their husbands and their in-laws” in China.
To solve the problem, he said, the enforcement of protective laws is “very important,” but not enough.
“The Chinese basically need to look at their one-child policy, and say: 'Look, this policy inherently causes greater sex-selection abortion. It causes a whole series of other problems, including demographic aging, for their society, and is an enormous – probably the greatest – human rights violation imposed by government today.'”
“So clearly getting rid of the one-child policy is very important for many reasons – but one of those reasons would be to reduce the sex-selection abortion crisis that's going on in China.”