One Child Policy — the great pro-life/pro-choice unifier?

A recent submission over at the Hao Hao Report has stirred up a bit of conversation about China’s One-Child Policy (OCP) and specifically an American organization that strongly opposes it.

For most of my life the OCP debate was completely absent in my daily dialog. I don’t know that I ever gave it a moment’s thought before coming to China. Living here though, and watching as China-centric headlines increasingly fill Western news cycles, it’s a topic that repeatedly finds its way into my thoughts — particularly now that I’ve filled my quota.

In the reverse, prior to leaving North American soil, the great Pro-Choice/Pro-Life battle regularly found its way into my readings, discussions and thoughts. Since coming to China, not so much.

The Pro-Life/Pro-Choice discourse, in my admittedly limited understanding, primarily boils down to a Religion vs. Liberty debate. The religious feel that it is murder to have an abortion, and the libertarians believe women should have the decision to do what they wish to their body. What I find interesting is that the All Girls Allowed organization mentioned above, and others like it, while being aligned with the ‘pro-life’ camp, are primarily forwarding an argument of liberty: The OCP is immoral because it forces women to murder their unborn babies. It removes choice, and not for a fetus (as I’m sure someone is just itching to poke a hole in my description with), but specifically for the women involved. They are pro-choice.

Ok, not exactly. Their “pro-choice” only extends to allowing a women to have as many babies as she wants, not to her having the option of terminating the pregnancy should she choose to do so. Ultimately there’s an agenda there that would one day see the organizations switch to a similar rhetoric that their beliefs push to a Western-facing world — namely the encouragement of a system for authoritarian control of what women can and can’t do with their bodies.

And this is where organizations like the above lose my support. Their message is soured, to me at least, by their affiliation to religion and the beliefs that come with it that restrict another person’s liberty. I have a hard time seeing action spurred by religion, no matter how well-intended, as anything but devious. I know many readers are religious, and I know that statement is going to be a volatile one.

I wear my aversion to religion rather overtly. However, I am not trying to say that all actions of the religious are devious, simply because of their beliefs. There are plenty in the Faithful masses, just as in the non-believer circles, that do good simply because good needs doing, and not because someone or something told them it was the key to a magical place.

But ultimately, I can’t take seriously any organization that puts, as a cornerstone of their operational philosophy, prayer (nestled right between “Get Involved” and “News & Resources”). Adding “god” to an NGO is like adding made up interviews to a New York Times investigative piece. It strengthens your point to anyone who emphatically believes you or what you do, but muddles its validity and challenges your motivations with anyone even remotely skeptical.

I believe it is wrong to force a woman to abort her baby due to our rather fuzzy understanding of population and population control. And when that baby is nearly full-term, I think that’s criminal. It brings me to tears thinking about it, and I am not strong enough to spend too long considering what it must actually be like for women, for families, to actually go through that. To borrow a phrase, late-term abortions are murder. An abstract idea of “possibly better for the common good in the long term” does absolutely zero to temper my feelings about this. I would think anyone with a child feels similarly.

But when the mandate of your organization has a dark shadow just out of sight that would eventually likewise force women to sacrifice their liberty for what someone else feels is right, how can I support you? How can your message hold validity when it is tainted with the same self-righteousness and suppression that on the surface it is trying to stop?