Faced with falling birth rates and the reluctance of time- and money-strapped couples to have more children, the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) ordered family planning officials to “intervene to prevent teenage abortions.
Family planning associations across the country have been ordered to “launch a targeted abortion-related campaign to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions among young people,” according to a January 29 document. published on the Planned Parenthood Association website.
Family planning officials should also launch an online propaganda campaign focused on “respecting the social value of childbirth, promoting age-appropriate marriage and childbearing, and optimal procreation and upbringing”.
Eugenics has been an official part of CCP policy since the implementation of the Maternal and Child Health Care Law in 1994.
The law obliges doctors to recommend the postponement of the marriage if either of the couples suffers from a contagious disease or an active mental disorder, while couples in which one of the parties has a serious hereditary disease can only marry if they agree to use long-term contraception or undergo sterilization.
If prenatal tests reveal that a fetus has a serious hereditary disease or a serious malformation, women must abort, by law.
Now, the government wants to use new social media content and slogans to “strengthen the orientation of young people’s views on marriage, love and family, and reshape parenting culture to encompass families with multiple children”, indicates the directive on family planning.
“The new culture of marriage and childbirth should be incorporated into village regulations, and content that is inconsistent with it should be revised,” he said.
Such content should “promote the new fertility policy, the new concept of marriage and childbirth…to create an enabling environment for fertility,” he said.
A Chinese reporter who gave only the pseudonym of Zhong Tao said the measures appear to be aimed at ensuring that more babies are born, even if they are born to younger, unmarried people.
“Unmarried pregnancy and even teenage pregnancy will become the norm, with all the legal, social and moral issues that entails,” Zhong told RFA. “This will lead to an increase in the number of single-parent families.”
The directive comes after official figures showed a sharp drop in the number of new marriage registrations, from 13.47 million couples in 2013 to just 8.143 million couples in 2020.
“Encouraging single-parent families and early births may yet become the focus of future family planning policy,” Zhong said. “Especially for young people… who haven’t yet decided what they want out of life, they might be willing to try having children regardless of the burden they bring.”
Lu Jun, co-founder of the nonprofit Yirenping Health Center, said the claim that such “interventions” to prevent abortion are aimed at protecting young women’s health is a smokescreen.
“Fundamentally, that means women are always going to be treated like reproductive machines,” Lu told RFA. “It shows us that the changes in family planning policy we’ve seen over the past 10 years have little to do with the nation’s reproductive health, and everything to do with achieving the government’s population goals.”
“When they wanted to control the population, they pushed for abortion and forced abortions,” he said. “Now they want to raise the so-called national fertility rate, they want to stop people having abortions.”
High cost of raising children
Lu said he fully expects local family planning officials, who have a history of violence, forced abortions and other abuses against couples who do not follow CCP guidelines, to also use coercive measures to force women to have children they do not want.
“There will certainly be a lot of arbitrary implementation in governments at all levels and across the country, including abuse of power,” he said. “There will be targets and quotas set for prevented abortions.”
The CCP unveiled new plans in May 2021 to stimulate falling birth rates and reverse the aging of the population, by raising the official limit on the number of children per couple from two to three.
But the people who do the bulk of the mental, physical and emotional work of procreation and childcare – Chinese women – may not step in to solve the government’s population problems as easily as the CCP leader hopes. , Xi Jinping.
Raising children in China is an expensive business, with parents scrambling to find money for even one child’s education. While public schools do not charge tuition until the 10th year of compulsory education, they increasingly require nominal payments of various kinds, as well as payments for food and extracurricular activities.
Xi said ‘education and counseling should be provided to promote marriage and family values among young people of marriageable age’, with Politburo promising tax and housing incentives in preparation for couples wishing to have children .
Other promised support measures include improved prenatal and postnatal care, universal childcare and lower education costs for families.
China’s fertility rate was around 1.3 children per woman in 2020, compared to the 2.1 children per woman needed to renew the population.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.