NOW feminists are worried about China policing women's bodies?
22 June 2018
Feng Jianmei, who was forced to have an abortion in 2012 by local officials at seven months pregnant
Where have they been for decades of forced abortion?
Authorities in China's Jiangxi province issued guidelines last week stipulating that women more than 14 weeks pregnant must have signed approval from three medical professionals confirming an abortion is medically necessary. The measures are meant to help prevent sex-selective abortions (a baby's sex is usually discernible by 14 weeks) and come as Chinese officials look for ways to deal with the country's ageing population and low fertility rates, a result of decades of coercive population control policies.
Given that China has a huge gender inbalance, to the extent that it is estimated that by 2020 there will be 55 million excess males, this move could be seen as a long-overdue recognition by the authorities of the damage their population control policies have caused, as well as a welcome attempt to protect baby girls.
State control of women's bodies?
However, according to the Guardian, the new rules have "prompted concern from citizens and activists over state control of women’s bodies."
"Your womb is being monitored,” said one comment on the Weibo microblogging website. "What is the purpose and basis of this policy? The reproductive rights of women in this country seem to be a joke," said another.
"People are worried that the government will go from lifting restrictions, to encouraging reproduction, to imposing restrictions on abortion and restricting people’s own decisions," said Lu Pin, founder of Feminist Voices, a blog on gender issues.
State sponsored forced abortion
The Guardian article acknowledges that "China’s family planning policies have long encouraged the use of abortions, along with contraceptives and sterilisation, as a way to restrict population growth." However, it does not say that the state sponsored population control is enforced by a coercive regime of forced abortions and forced sterilisations. In 2012, a photo of a dead seven month old baby lying next to his mother, who had been subjected to a forced abortion caused outrage around the world. 23 year old Feng Jianmei had been abducted under the instruction of a local family planning official, as she couldn't afford the fine associated with having a second child.
The state cap on family size, along with a strong cultural preference for boys, means that women are also coerced into abortion by their families. In one horrifying case, a mother died after her husband forced her to abort four baby girls in the space of a year.
The notorious "one child" policy was scrapped in 2016, but a BBC investigation found that "brutal machinery of enforcement is still in place along with the Chinese state's insistence on the right of control over women's wombs."
SPUC's Fiorella Nash, who has done extensive research on gender based and forced abortion, described the attitude of those criticising the measure as "rank hypocrisy".
"For decades, the Chinese authorities have been policing women's reproduction," she said. "Feminist groups and authorities in the west have stood idly by while women were forcibly sterilized and subjected to forced, sometimes late term, abortions.
"Many have even praised China's population control policies on ecological grounds. Now that the Chinese government is finally waking up to the need to protect baby girls, these voices in the Guardian claim to be concerned about policing women's wombs. Where have they been for the last four decades?"
Fiorella Nash's upcoming book, The Abolition of Woman, is available for pre-order.
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