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Coercive Family Planning In China

The United Nations Population Fund, or U-N-F-P-A, has announced that it will continue to provide financial and technical assistance to China's coercive program to limit the size of families. The United States opposes this decision.

"U.S. opposition to this program," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack "is a matter of principle. It is not directed at the U-N-F-P-A. Rather, it is based on the strong opposition of the United States to human rights abuses associated with coercive birth limitation regimes."

Married couples in China with some exceptions may only have one child. Couples may apply for permission to have a second child under certain conditions. But according to the U.S. State Department's latest human rights report, Chinese officials have been known to pressure women with multiple children to undergo sterilization and abortion.

The Chinese government's population control program relies on social pressure, propaganda, and economic incentives, as well as such coercive measures as the threat of job loss or the imposition of large social compensation fees. These fees are a penalty for unauthorized births, and can reach an amount several times a person's annual salary. In cases of unauthorized pregnancy, Chinese women have sometimes been visited by birth-planning workers who use threats to pressure the women to have an abortion.

A number of Chinese provinces have legal provisions that require women to have an abortion if their pregnancy violates government regulations. Local officials may require that women undergo periodic pregnancy tests and impose fines on those who fail to do so. In some cases, couples who have conditions that could cause serious genetic illnesses in their offspring may not have children.

The United Nations Population Fund's "continuing support for the Chinese coercive birth limitation program unfortunately provides a de-facto 'seal of approval' on these activities," says State Department spokesman McCormack. The United States urges the U-N-F-P-A to use its leverage with Chinese authorities and again refuse to begin a new country program for China until the coercion ends.

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.