202206 04 1By Elaine Dunn | June 2022

Following a leak of the draft opinion indicating the U.S. Supreme Court justices may overturn Roe v. Wade, many Americans are up in arms.  CNN reported a Marquette Law School poll taken a week after the leak showed the Supreme Court’s approval rating among Democrats declined from 49% in March 2022 to 26%.  Meanwhile, for Republicans, it increased slightly from 64% to 68%.

Abortions had been legal in the U.S. for half a century.  Even if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, it only means legality is the decision for each state to make within its borders, not at the federal level.  Currently, 26 states have laws that could restrict access to abortion if Roe is overturned.

A May 2022 Forbes article reported that an estimated 630,000- 886.000 (2019 data) women sought the procedure annually in the U.S.  Now, with Roe V. Wade in jeopardy, the concern is women will be forced to travel farther and tackle the varying restrictions among different states to access safe abortion providers.

In mainland China, a January 2022 report published on the China Family Planning Association’s website mentioned “special efforts will be made to address the reproductive health concerns of specific groups, and that there will be special campaigns to intervene in abortions among unmarried people and adolescents so as to tackle unwanted pregnancies and improve reproductive health.”

The Chinese National Bureau of Statistics reported population in China had increased by only 480,000 since end-2020.  For the past five years, annual total number of induced abortions in China are at approximately 9.5 million.  Statistics also show a large number of these induced abortion seekers are repeat “customers.” Is reducing abortion China’s plan to protect “national fertility”?

The Chinese communist government implemented the One-Child Policy in 1980 to control population growth and alleviate the famine problem as a result of Mao Zedong’s failed Great Leap Forward (combination of radical agricultural and inefficient food distribution policies).  The One-Child Policy officially ended in January 2016.

While the One-Child Policy was in effect, there were many forced abortions.  Violators also faced steep fines and threats of lost jobs.  It also resulted in many sex-selective abortions because of the country ‘s social preference for boys.  This led to a grave gender imbalance in the mainland.  In 2016, author-journalist Mei Fong’s book “One Child” cited there are 30 million more men than women in China, i.e., 30 million men, aka “bare branches,” who have no hope of finding a bride.

"What made these good people do evil things?"

In December 2007, a Taiwan newspaper quoted the director of China’s state family planning commission admitting the One-Child Policy had led to forced abortions, infanticide as well as abandonment of newly born baby girls.  Two Chinese-born filmmakers produced the 2019 Sundance U.S. Grand Jury Prize-winning documentary “One Child Nation” that exposed the brutality and trauma the policy gave birth to, ranging from forced sterilizations and abortions, to government abductions.  It featured a midwife who estimates she performed 60,000 abortions while the policy was in effect.  Many of the abortions were late-term because the women tried to hide their pregnancies.  And if the babies were born alive, the midwife would have to kill it.  Even though she felt guilty performing abortions and killing live-borns, she considered her primary role as a “loyal communist party member” was to fulfil her duty in enforcing the one-child policy.

Almost every person, ranging from ordinary Chinese citizen to family planning officials the filmmakers spoke to believed they did not have a choice -- that they were doing something good for the country overall.

In 2010, al-Jazeera television showed a video of a very pregnant (eight months along) Chinese woman forced to terminate her pregnancy at a Xiamen hospital.  The forced abortion was because the couple already had a 10-year-old daughter.  The unborn baby was given a lethal injection.

Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, told Media Research Center that the 2010 al-Jazeera video is “further evidence that China’s coercive family planning practices cause more violence against women than any other official policy on earth … Thousands of women are being dragged out of their homes, thrown into ‘family planning’ jail cells, strapped down to tables and forced to abort pregnancies that they want, even up to the ninth month.”

By the time China ended the 35-year run of the One-Child Policy, approximately 336 million abortions had taken place, the majority of which were aborted girls.

Abortions had been legal in China until the early 1950s when the government made it illegal unless:

·         The mother had a preexisting medical condition

·         A spontaneous is expected, and

·         The expectant mother had already undergone two or more Caesarian sections

·         The expectant mother already had four other children and the pregnancy occurred within four months of giving birth to the last child.

Abortions were again legalized by the Chinese government in 1988 and abortion levels remain high.  Between 2014-2018, China’s National Health Commission show there was an average of 9.7 million pregnancies terminated annually.

In its current battle against negative population growth, China has enacted the Two-Child Policy in 2016 and then, the Three-Child Policy in 2021, but to no avail.  Better educated women who now have great career opportunities are reluctant to have bigger families, especially since the cost of living is so high.  A team of Chinese demographers revealed in February 2022 that to raise a child to age 18 in general takes an average of US$76,662.  In urban areas, that number increases to US$99,582.  And, in the top two metropolitan areas, it’s even higher: Beijing, $153,167; Shanghai, $199,165.

So, when news of the government wished to reduce “non-medical”-related abortions in October 2021, the backlash was swift and furious.  Women took to social media in droves saying they were fed up with the government’s efforts to control their bodies.  Sound familiar? 

A top female Weibo commentator wrote, “The female body has become a tool.  When (the state) wants you to bear a child, you must do it at all cost.  When (the state) doesn't want it, you're not allowed to give birth even at the risk of death."

Not only are Chinese citizens refusing to be pressured into producing children, the number of couples registered to be married had plummeted to a 36-year low in 2021.  As a result, nine of the 23 provinces have reported negative population growth. 

The government now has to change tack completely to deal with the effects of the One-Child Policy: the rapidly aging population and a shrinking workforce.

For a country that has favoured boys since the beginning of time, women of childbearing age may be the government’s most prized asset now.


202206 04 2

Child with bandana as the government ends One-Child Policy


CAAM Horizweb2

Terms Of Use

Terms of Use All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without prior written permission of the publisher. For permission requests, contact [email protected] with subject line “Permission request.”


CHINAINSIGHT (CI) is published monthly ((except July/August and November/December are combined) by China Insight, Inc., an independent, privately owned company started in 2001 and headquartered in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota.

CHINAINSIGHT is the only English-language American newspaper to focus exclusively on connections between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Our goal is to develop a mutual understanding of each other’s cultures and business environments and to foster U.S.-China cultural and business harmony.