An Impediment to Choice

Steven Mosher
By Joseph A. D'Agostino
PRI Weekly Briefing
7 February 2005
Vol. 7 / No. 5
Reproduced with Permission

Communist China announced plans last month to criminalize sex-selective abortion, yet American and international feminist groups quick to denounce restrictions on the right to choose in any country did not complain. Their silence is an extension of the silence they observe on China s official one-child policy, which since 1979 has forced women who have more than one child (or two children in many rural areas) to undergo sterilization or forced abortion. Feminists implicit acceptance, and in some cases endorsement, of China s decision fully accords with the fundamentally statist, authoritarian worldview of mainstream leftists. They favor government regulation of almost everything, including abortion when it suits purposes they favor such as population control. Their long-standing support for China s systematically coercive population control program is proof that reproductive freedom is not their chief concern.

China s infringement on choice is a classic example of how novel social experiments always create crises that the government must intervene to solve. Socialism begets more socialism, a system of social organization that does not work and neither will the ban on sex-selective abortion. Though anyone, however libertarian, who believes in the sanctity of every individual human life wants governments to ban abortion in order to protect unborn children, China has not undertaken this measure out of concern for the girls who are being disproportionately killed in the womb. China s Communist rulers wish not to fulfill their essential government function of protecting innocent life, but, based on an authoritarian mindset, to continue to manipulate the Chinese population.

China is missing girls, 40 to 60 million of them, which will leave an equal number of young Chinese men without wives. Chinese couples, allowed to have only one or two children, abort girls in the womb in order to try for boys later. Boys are preferred for traditional cultural reasons, because they support their parents in their old age (girls become part of their husbands families when they marry), because they extend the family line, and because in rural areas, they can perform more labor. Between 117 and 119 boys are now born in China for every 100 girls when naturally speaking, 105 boys should be born for every 100 girls (Mother Nature prefers boys by 5%). The Chinese government has announced plans to eliminate the new disparity between male and female births by 2010, just five years away.

The criminal sex-selective abortion ban seems unlikely to work. India criminalized it to no effect: Her sex imbalance at birth has not improved. Almost no one gets into legal trouble for sex-selective abortion. How could they? Ultrasounds are taken to monitor the health of unborn children, so doctors always know their sex. Parents find out from them, even though it s illegal for the doctors to reveal it. Then they exercise their right to choose. Is a preference for one sex over the other any worse a reason to have an abortion than convenience, or temporary physical or psychological discomfort? After all, 98% of abortions in America are elective by even pro-choice medical standards.

China is also offering parents of one or two girls subsidies in order to encourage more of them. So the government will tax some people in order to pay other people to do what government policy has led them not to do. It s no wonder that Zhang Yichi, the child whose birth last month officially raised China s population to 1.3 billion, was a boy.

Birthrates are dropping all over the world with or without coercion, and few countries have serious sex imbalances. Fashionably quasi-Marxist observers like to blame patriarchal attitudes for the imbalances in China and India, but almost all Third World countries have such attitudes together with populations that are more than half female. China and India have populations that are 48.4% female, even though women s lives average longer than men s there as well as elsewhere.

If China s government wants to save its country from a dearth of women, it should abolish its always-evil and now-archaic population control program.