Illegal births and legal abortions - The case of China

Hemminki, E., Wu, Z., Cao, G.-Y., & Viisainen, K. (2005). Illegal births and legal abortions - The case of China. Reproductive Health 2 (5) 10.1186/1742-4755-2-5.

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BACKGROUND: China has a national policy regulating the number of children that a woman is allowed to have. The central concept at the individual level application is "illegal pregnancy". The purpose of this article is to describe and problematicize the concept of illegal pregnancy and its use in practice.

METHODS: Original texts and previous published and unpublished reports and statistics were used.

RESULTS: By 1979 the Chinese population policy was clearly a policy of controlling population growth. For a pregnancy to be legal, it has to be defined as such according to the family-level eligibility rules, and in some places it has to be within the local quota. Enforcement of the policy has been pursued via the State Family Planning (FP) Commission and the Communist Party (CP), both of which have a functioning vertical structure down to the lowest administrative units. There are various incentives and disincentives for families to follow the policy. An extensive system has been created to keep the contraceptive use and pregnancy status of all married women at reproductive age under constant surveillance. In the early 1990s FP and CP officials were made personally responsible for meeting population targets. Since 1979, abortion has been available on request, and the ratio of legal abortions to birth increased in the 1980s and declined in the 1990s. Similar to what happens in other Asian countries with low fertility rates and higher esteem for boys, both national- and local-level data show that an unnaturally greater number of boys than girls are registered as having been born.

CONCLUSION: Defining a pregnancy as "illegal" and carrying out the surveillance of individual women are phenomena unique in China, but this does not apply to other features of the policy. The moral judgment concerning the policy depends on the basic question of whether reproduction should be considered as an individual or social decision.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Asia; China; Population policy; Illegal pregnancy; Abortion; Sex ratio
Research Programs: Forestry (FOR)
Bibliographic Reference: Reproductive Health; 2:5 (11 August 2005)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 02:17
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:37

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