China's 'One-Child' laws won't translate for African-American women
OPINION - The adoption of China's one-child policy in the US would have a disproportionately negative impact on women of color.
As the international climate change conference in Copenhagen begins to wrap up, one controversial topic has emerged: population control. The center-right blogosphere and some Catholics have been in an uproar over American-Canadian journalist Diane Francis’s recent op-ed in the Financial Post in which she argues that the “inconvenient truth” is that there should be worldwide implementation of China’s one-child policy. She argues that population control has been getting insufficient attention in Copenhagen although, she contends, it is as dangerous to the planet as global warming. Zhao Baige, China’s assistant minister of the National Population and Family Planning Commission has made a similar point, asserting that China’s population control activities have reduced climate change.
The neo-Malthusian proposal that Francis (who has two children herself) puts forward, and Baige supports, is rife with problems. Despite the claims that doomsayers have been making for the past 200 years, since Thomas Malthus, the planet is not in danger of over-population. For the past 40 years, the rate of population growth has significantly declined around the globe and Sub-Saharan Africa, where population growth remains above the global average, has among the lowest carbon emissions per capita.
Voluntary methods of population control (e.g., increasing access to birth control options) are one thing. However, a coercive policy such as China’s one-child policy can’t be implemented without government force. It will be implemented on the backs of women – treating women as criminal defendants under the guise of saving the environment – and will disproportionately impact women of color.
The social pressure to have a son is so strong in many Chinese rural areas that “girls often “disappearshortly after they are born, which conveniently provides parents with another chance to ensure that their sole offspring is male. There are also forced abortions and forced sterilizations in China, as well as sterilization camps in India. Closer to home, the U.S. has its own history of forced abortions and sterilizations that disproportionately targeted women of color. Given the historical track record, do we really trust governments to equally enforce a global one-child rule? Do we really want women’s bodies to become wards of the state?
A global one-child policy would also result in unintended consequences such as a societal gender imbalance (which Baige concedes is a problem in China), soaring youth crime rates due to the imbalance, and lopsidedness in mate selection along with an increase in human trafficking for brides.
Most fundamentally, the one-child proposal undermines a key value: liberty. Francis considers herself a feminist. However, such a dictatorial Big Government proposal with its gender and racial repercussions is quite disturbing coming from a “pro-choice” feminist. One cannot claim to be in favor of women’s choices against government interference when it comes to western women, while simultaneously arguing for no liberty for other women – disproportionately women of color – via more government control simply because you (1) deem them to not be providing the “proper” quality of life for their children or (2) you deem them to have “too many” children. Do all women have the right to control our bodies and choose our reproductive future, or do only certain women?
Human minds are the planet’s best natural resources, as creative individuals emerge with ideas to improve quality of life. It is no coincidence that countries with higher levels of capitalist activity are more concerned about the environment and have more prosperity. The economic success of these countries has also removed two key financial benefits that many people worldwide see in having large families: (1) more hands on deck to work in the fields, in order to contribute to the family’s survival; and (2) an ad-hoc form of insurance in one’s elderly years. Increasing economic freedom is where there should be more focus, not on growing government power on the backs of women.