ROME — Despite the implementation in China of a two-child — rather than one-child — policy at the beginning of the year, forced abortions, mostly of baby girls, will continue on an enormous scale. This is according to Reggie Littlejohn, founder and director of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers. On a visit to Rome this month, she sat down with the Register to discuss the latest on the Chinese government’s population-control policy.
She also explains how her organization’s “Save a Girl” campaign has saved many lives and how International Planned Parenthood Federation is working “hand in hand” with China’s population-control machine. Littlejohn was in Rome to attend the annual Rome Life Forum, a gathering of pro-life leaders from around the world.
You’ve said the statistics on forced abortion in China are much higher than initially thought. Could you explain how much higher?
The U.S. Department of State issued its annual human-rights report last month, and the China report stated that China aborts more than 13 million a year — a figure the Chinese Communist Party has been officially reporting as the number of abortions. It’s just an astonishing number. They have four times the population of the United States, and we have a million abortions a year. They’ve been recording 13.
But actually, it’s 10 million higher — it’s almost double. There was an official statement in the news media that the 13 million abortions were only those occurring in official Chinese clinics and hospitals. It did not include another 10 million abortions that were occurring in unofficial clinics, so actually, it’s 23 million a year. So they have four times the population of the United States and 23 times the number of abortions. That amounts to about 63,000 abortions a day, about 2,600 an hour, 43 a minute. So for every breath you take, a baby’s being aborted in China.
And this is because of the enforced one- (now two-) child policy?
Yes, and this is the thing: The report of the State Department ends on Dec. 31. It’s a 2015 report; the two-child policy started on Jan. 1. So this was not reporting what the two-child policy was reporting in the last year of the so-called one-child policy. But the one-child policy had so many exceptions that a third of the country was already under a two-child policy anyway. Even under the two-child policy, in the areas that had a two-child policy, there was forced and sex-selective abortion. So under the two-child policy, the entire infrastructure of coercion remains intact.
All couples in China are now allowed to have two children, which means you have to be part of a couple. Unmarried women are still not allowed to have children; it’s still illegal to have a baby in China if you’re not married, so more than half of the abortions in China, according to the Chinese Communist Party, are of unmarried women — and those are forced abortions. They’re forced because it’s illegal. You’re not even given the option of paying a fine; you have to have an abortion. And then third babies are still aborted.
For example, the activist Chen Guangcheng put it most succinctly when he tweeted about the two-child policy, saying: “This is nothing to celebrate; they used to kill every baby after one. Now they kill every baby after two.” So forced abortion and sex-selective abortion continue.
You have a program to save girls. Can you tell us more about that?
We have a “Save a Girl” campaign through which we’ve saved hundreds of baby girls in China. The vast majority of the girls we’ve saved are second daughters. In the countryside, in the past, when there was a one-child policy, if your first child was a boy, you could have more than one child; if your first child was a girl, you could have a second child — but what we’re finding is that those second children, if daughters, are being routinely aborted and abandoned. And that’s when we go to people’s doors and say, “Please do not abort or abandon your daughter; she’s a precious child, and she’ll bring you much joy — and we’ll give you monthly support to empower you to keep your daughter.”
We’ve saved hundreds of babies that way. Well, the same thing is going to happen under a universal two-child policy, because when the first child is a girl, those second daughters are still at very high risk of abortion, because people will want to have boys.
That’s pretty much inevitable?
Well, when the third comes, it’s going to be forced abortion, unless you’re extremely wealthy and can afford to pay a fine, which could be 10 times your annual salary.
Is there any sign they’re going to let up or show any kind of mercy to their own people?
There’s no such thing as mercy under the Chinese Communist Party. What there is is: They’re being very practical. They’re moving from a one-child policy to a universal two-child policy because they don’t have enough young people to support their ageing population and because of the gender imbalance which they’re trying to rectify through this two-child policy. But I don’t think the sex ratio at birth is going to change much. So they could move to a three-child policy.
But that’s unlikely to happen?
No, it could happen. I predicted the two-child policy was going to happen and went on record to say I think we’re going to very soon have a two-child policy; and actually, a week before it was going to happen, I said we’re going to have a two-child policy.
You see, the point at the center of these policies is coercion. It’s not about the number of kids allowed; it’s the fact that they’re setting a number and enforcing it with forced abortion and forced sterilization. So, like in my village, where we have the “Save a Girl” campaign, women are routinely sterilized after the second child. What happens with a universal two-child policy? Women don’t want to be sterilized because they’re butchered. Sterilizations aren’t carried out by well-trained gynecological surgeons: They’re under-trained people without antiseptic, and people end up with massive infections and horrible complications.
In many villages, they don’t have running water; it’s a woman’s job to pump water out of an aquifer, and it takes a lot of strength. So before women have a sterilization, they are usually pumping multiple bottles of water, however much they need, and then once they’re sterilized, they’re incapacitated; and at most, they can pump one bucket of water, which is catastrophic for their family. So if they’re going to have a boy, I think they’re going to stop there and not have a second child because they don’t want to be sterilized after a second child. If they’re going to have a girl, and they’re pregnant again, if it’s another girl, they’re going to abort or abandon her — because they’re “saving” that second child for a boy. … Maybe they’d be willing to be sterilized for a boy, but they’re certainly not going to be sterilized for a second daughter.
Do you see any hope that this system will start crumbling anytime soon?
No, I actually testified before Congress in April last year saying I don’t believe the Chinese Communist Party will ever relinquish coercive population control. And I said then I think we’re going to see them move to a two-child policy. But they’re not going to relinquish the control.
Just like that they won’t relinquish control of the Church, as a means of controlling the population?
I think, in the beginning, when they instituted the one-child policy, the purpose of the policy was population control, and the terror they instilled because of late-term forced abortion was just a by-product. Now, terror is the purpose of the policy. And they want to keep that grip because even under a two-child policy, they still want to monitor people’s menstrual cycles, carry out pregnancy checks. The whole infrastructure of coercion and control of women is intact. A woman’s womb is in the domain of the state.
Are there any loopholes? Could a mother have her baby in a clandestine way?
Yes, there are loopholes. For example, we have a number of babies who are born clandestinely because they’re officially illegal. And what can happen under the two-child policy? You have a daughter officially for your first child, and then you get pregnant with your second child; and she’s a girl, and you want to abort or abandon her. We go to her and say, “Please don’t do this.” And then what can happen is she can have this baby clandestinely.
The Chinese government gives two “hukous” per family. A hukou is household registration [officially identifies a person as a resident of an area and includes identifying information such as name, parents, spouse, and date of birth. They can also be issued per family, and usually include the births, deaths, marriages, divorces, and moves, of all members in the family]. What it does is the child won’t be entitled to health care, will not be entitled to education, will have no official existence, cannot officially work, marry, have a passport or officially travel. They are non-persons in their country What will happen with that second daughter is that they’ll have her secretly, and she will not get hukou, so they can try for a third child; and if he’s a boy, they’ll be able to get that hukou because they will save the hukou for the boy. So some of our girls are unregistered, but at least they’re alive.
My hope is that the hukou system will pass away, and then those girls will become legal, but we’re just trying to save their lives and, meanwhile, attack the hukou system.
You’ve also mentioned a connection between the Chinese government and International Planned Parenthood.
Yes, we’ve sent out a statement on International Planned Parenthood’s connection with all of this. IPP has been working hand in hand with the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese Family Planning Association ever since the beginning of the one-child policy and has given them awards, etc. … So the fact we are funding IPP [through tax dollars], in some sense, makes us complicit in all of this.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.