Author: has written 5302 posts for this blog.

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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55 Responses

  1. Nikita
    Nikita November 17, 2008 at 10:03 am |

    I feel sick… this is so horrifying!

  2. Luna
    Luna November 17, 2008 at 11:23 am |

    Oh. My. God. How bloody awful. Every last aspect of it.

  3. Matt
    Matt November 17, 2008 at 12:05 pm |

    So, what will the solution be when the population of the earth is far too high to allow everyone to eat and life and have basic necessities, but people still insist on popping out kids?

    Population control isn’t pretty, but I don’t really see an alternative when the situation becomes critical enough. Whether that is the case now in China is a separate matter, but it seems like this is something that we’ll eventually deal with on a more basic scale.

  4. CTD
    CTD November 17, 2008 at 12:14 pm |

    Wait until the bean counters administering a “universal” health care system decide that having more than a couple of kids is “costing the system too much.”

    But I’m sure that will never happen here, though. Right?

  5. RC
    RC November 17, 2008 at 12:43 pm |

    With one fifth of the world’s population, China has no choice. Of course, if all the developed nations allow the Chinese to immigrate without restriction, then it is another matter – China will have no excuses to continue its population control policy.

  6. Jenny
    Jenny November 17, 2008 at 12:47 pm |

    Frankly, the one-child policy was conceived as a solution to an overpopulation problem that led millions to starve to death. Requiring citizens to limit childbearing seems like a pretty reasonable response to mass starvation, and the U. S. pro-choice movement’s condemnation of the policy has always seemed to me like the response of people who have little experience with actual wide-scale hunger and starvation. It also strikes me as the result of the troubling, 1980s-era shift from a demand for abortion rights to the rhetoric of “choice.” To me, this story illustrates not the parallel between abortion rights and government mandated abortion, but the lack of similarity between public responses to the two. We have we seen no similar “storm of international protest” in response to the millions of women being forced to give birth daily in the many countries that forbid abortion? To the Bush administration’s denial of international funds for medical programs that even mention abortion? To the gradual rollback of abortion rights and access in the U.S.?

  7. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers November 17, 2008 at 1:02 pm |

    So, what will the solution be when the population of the earth is far too high to allow everyone to eat and life and have basic necessities, but people still insist on popping out kids?

    Well, in an ideal world you prevent that from ever happening.

    Educated women with access to birth control and the ability to hold down jobs in a gender-integrated workforce practice 0% population growth. *Every* nation that has ever implemented even ostensible sexual equality, sent girls to school with boys, and allowed women to freely access birth control has a 0% pop growth from birth rate, defined as a birth rate of less than 2.0 per couple… America’s population growth is something like 2.1, but a huge amount of this comes from immigration. Even with our fundies and our “teen girls on welfare” we have 0% pop growth from the citizens.

    It is actually never necessary to force women to have abortions. All you have to do is make sure that women know they will be cared for in their old age if they have kids or not, and give them the education and access to have jobs and the birth control to manage their reproduction, and they will do it for you. One or two Quiverfulls will be offset by ten childfree.

    So no, this isn’t a problem we ever have to face… *if* the world implements the principles of feminism before we get there.

  8. Jamie Jeans
    Jamie Jeans November 17, 2008 at 1:30 pm |

    Yeah, calling in from Canada here… while the lines are a bit long up here with our evil socialist universal medicare, there has NEVER been any case of the bean counters telling the people how many kids they can and can’t have.

    Oh, that and sex education up here actually IS sex education, and not just Women Shaming Classes 101.

    Maybe if the lady in the article above had more education about birth control and prevention, or if those stupid anti-choicers hadn’t gotten funding yanked for the UNFPA, maybe if China wasn’t so down on people having more than 1 child while discriminating against minorities and women being born, she wouldn’t have had to face such a choice.

    It’s terrible what she’s going through, that she has to face this choice, and it’s more than just putting the child up for adoption.

    (On a side note, I love how universal health care is frowned upon so much by the Yanks, and yet the police, fire fighters, military, and civil servants are just ah oh kay. Because after all, it’s perfectly fine to have the government pay for someone to fight for you, risk their lives for you, take care of the libraries for you, and die for you, but not to take care of you when you’re sick.)

    (And by Yank I mean ignorant ugly American.)

  9. Julie
    Julie November 17, 2008 at 2:36 pm |

    Absolutely Jill. Some of the comments here are vile. While overpopulation is a valid concern, placing the blame solely at the feet of women is wrong and forcing women to undergo an invasive medical procedure against her will is a violation of basic human rights.

  10. Cara
    Cara November 17, 2008 at 2:43 pm |

    Maybe some of the commenters here are new, I don’t know. But I’m surprised that this has to be explained on a feminist blog.

    Frankly, I’m surprised about a lot of things that need to be explained every day on feminist blogs. Then again, I’m inpatient, a really shitty teacher, and currently in a very bad mood. So there you go.

  11. exholt
    exholt November 17, 2008 at 2:51 pm |

    Population control isn’t pretty, but I don’t really see an alternative when the situation becomes critical enough. Whether that is the case now in China is a separate matter, but it seems like this is something that we’ll eventually deal with on a more basic scale.

    FYI, the root of China’s overpopulation issue was Mao Zedong’s and the Chinese Communist Party’s misguided policies during the 1950’s and 1960s when they used economic and political incentives to encourage the creation of large families in order to create a base for a populous “People’s Liberation Army” to deter Anti-Communist attacks and to aid in the carrying out of a Maoist-derived revolutions around the world.

    Frankly, the one-child policy was conceived as a solution to an overpopulation problem that led millions to starve to death.

    If you’re referencing the Great Leap Forward of the late 1950’s-early ’60s, that was mainly the fault of misguided Maoist socio-economic policies and mismanagement as the effects of the Maoist inspired population boom would not be felt until the extreme late 1970s/early 1980s.

  12. Jivin J
    Jivin J November 17, 2008 at 3:26 pm |


    Because forcibly removing a wanted baby from a new mother is the solution here. The concern for life really does end at birth.

    This is a truly lazy attack. Take one stupid comment from some random anonymous person on a news web site and then claim the prolife movement’s concern for life “ends at birth.”

    Try to find one prolife blogger who would suggest the solution to the problem of forced abortion in China is adoption.

    I glad you’re horrified by the response of some commentators here but I wonder if you’ll write a post about them. There are fair number of people who favor legal abortion yet have rather sickening ideas about population control.

  13. Cara
    Cara November 17, 2008 at 3:34 pm |

    Yeah Jill, if you don’t find time to write a post about every comment that offends you, you’re not really offended. Tsk, tsk.

  14. prairielily
    prairielily November 17, 2008 at 4:11 pm |

    Truly, truly vile. It actually reminds me of a guy I once encountered who told me all about how pro-choice he is… and then about his theory that women should be forcibly sterilized after their third abortion for being “irresponsible.” It makes me shudder to think about it.

    I know we don’t hold up Iran as an example for anything good, because they’re like, OMGTOTALLYEVIL, but their family planning initiatives have been extremely effective. Obviously, there’s still work to be done, since I’m almost certain that abortion remains illegal and slut-shaming hasn’t disappeared.

    But you can read about it here:

    A Holistic Approach Underpins the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Success in Family Planning

  15. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe November 17, 2008 at 5:12 pm |

    Frankly, the one-child policy was conceived as a solution to an overpopulation problem that led millions to starve to death.

    Millions starved in China not because of overpopulation, but because of misguided, blundering economic policies like the Great Leap Forward. Instead of blaming themselves for their own incompetence and syncophancy, Chinese officials decided more bureaucratic interference with their citizens’ private lives was the way to go.

  16. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe November 17, 2008 at 5:18 pm |

    Exholt: Sorry. If I’d read the comments a little more closely, I wouldn’t have repeated what you just said.

  17. Ashley
    Ashley November 17, 2008 at 6:58 pm |

    Um, yeah, here I was all fired up to rant and rave at people for insensitive comments and Jill, Cara, Julie etc. took away all my thunder. So I look kinda silly huffing and puffing with no house to blow down — the cards already hit the floor.

    While we’re sharing appalling stories, here’s one about my great-aunt, a Native American woman. Aunt Patty was yanked off the reservation as a child and taken to a boarding school forcibly, as was the common practice in those days. She was abused horribly — starved, given inadequate food and shelter, etc. but the worst was when she was taken for surgery to remove her tonsils. Turns out her tonsils were removed, but so was her uterus. Forced sterilization, at 13.

    Removing other people’s reproductive options is just plain wrong.

  18. Ashley
    Ashley November 17, 2008 at 7:04 pm |

    Sorry, starved and inadequate food are kinda the same thing…you get my drift, one hopes…

  19. Vera
    Vera November 18, 2008 at 1:01 am |

    I agree that making Arzigul Tursun abort the child at such a late stage is the height of stupidity and misogyny, but this is most likely the over reaction of one or a few local officials rather than a degrading attitude held toward pregnant women by all or even a majority of Chinese people.

    In China there are several legitimate ways of having more than one child. One of them is to pay for it, which is probably what the fine of more than $6,000 USD is about. I am lead to believe that the fine is to subsidize the child’s State funded education and health care. You can see how it is equity based in the sense that those who have more children are in effect using more public funded resources and therefore should pay more. They are not Removing other people’s reproductive options… They are attaching valid clauses to them.

    It’s statistically clear that when women are educated and economically stable… women have fewer children by choice. Giving a population access to health care, education and a developed infrastructure goes a long way, and helps to control the population without coercion or force.

    The problem China faces is that they do not currently have the infrastructure to provide services equally for everyone, which is a fundamental tenet of their Government. They also don’t have enough jobs for their current population based on qualifications. All of this leads to the One Child Policy still being in force.

  20. whocares
    whocares November 18, 2008 at 2:18 am |

    So, what will the solution be when the population of the earth is far too high to allow everyone to eat and life and have basic necessities, but people still insist on popping out kids?

    wtf? Why is women’s oppression always the solution to any problem? How about sterilizing all men? It’s cheaper, less invasive, and reversible.

  21. Jenny
    Jenny November 18, 2008 at 3:56 am |

    I repeat, why is there no “storm of international protest” over the many, many countries forcing women to undergo the far more invasive procedure of forced birth? When Western feminists focus on China’s population policy, we disavow the much more destructive, deadly policies that force women to give birth or undergo unsafe, illegal abortion. These policies are killing women the world over, and are simply not equivalent to the Chinese one-child policy, which has, in fact, had the effect of reducing hunger and overpopulation. The one child policy gets a lot of attention because abortion is so demonized by the Right; I am objecting to feminists capitulating to this demonization, which I think we do when we equate the Chinese policy with anti-abortion policies. And, Jill, you don’t have to condescend to “explain” anything to me (since your work “teaching” us is tiring you out so much). Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean she needs re-education in some proper feminist position on the issue. There are a multitude of feminist positions, and mine happens to be that this issue pales in comparison to other global abuses of women’s rights, and that the international outrage about one woman having to get an abortion would be better directed at policies that mandate the far more invasive, dangerous and damaging practice of denying women abortions.

  22. Rachel
    Rachel November 18, 2008 at 5:08 am |

    The woman already has two children, does she really need three? With the world’s population already not being environmentally sustainable I do not see the problem with limiting the amount of children a woman can have. She knew the law and she obviously understood it (she fled during her third pregnancy) so what difference does it make if in the eyes of the law she is a criminal. Criminals are prosecuted in the United States.

    Fact is, our environment cannot sustain our level of increase in population. If she were to be able to keep her third child the Chinese population would no longer find it necessary to adhere to the One Child Policy and we could start seeing a surge in population in an area that already holds 1/5 of the world’s population. So sorry, I don’t think it is a matter of feminism. The government already let her have two children. Her case is can affect millions of Chinese women and the world cannot afford to see a surge in the Chinese population. I’m not even talking about economics or food supply, only the environmental impact her case can have. As you can see if we factor in economics and food supply we’ll see that in her case she shouldn’t be allowed to continue with her pregnancy. It’s not about feminism or ethics, the government never said she cannot have any children at all.

  23. Maria P.
    Maria P. November 18, 2008 at 6:07 am |

    At first, I cackled about the idea of castrating the guys with more than one kid, but then I remembered that forced sterilization of men has, indeed, happened. Usually (as with Ashley’s great-aunt) poor and/or marginalized men. The goal of that has usually been eugenic rather than general population based.

    So, yeah, my take: forcing women to have babies isn’t cool. Neither is forcing them not to. And population control? Heck, look at Japan and Singapore! Their governments are trying to figure out how to make their citizens have enough for 0% growth! (…and those policy ideas constitute a whole ‘nother can of worms..)

  24. Maria P.
    Maria P. November 18, 2008 at 6:13 am |

    And one more thing. I’m too lazy to actually dig for data, but what about the ol’ idea that there /is/ enough food for everybody, but that global economics mandates that much of it goes to waste? That’s getting off topic, but it does show how much easier it is to pick on women than to reconsider the way society works.

  25. JivinJ
    JivinJ November 18, 2008 at 8:05 am |

    Please Jill. I’m not saying you’re a hypocrite for not writing a post about the horrible comments of some people here who favor legal abortion. I don’t comment on every stupid comment left on my blog and I wouldn’t expect you to.

    I’m saying 1.) it’s incredibly lame to act like one comment from one random news story commenter is “telling about the ‘prolife” mentality.” Talk about an obvious strawman. 2.) That stupid comment about adoption is tame compared to vile spewed here by people favoring legal abortion.

    But since you’re so offended by the comments in favor of forced abortion by the population control advocates here I thought you might want to consider doing a post on how people who favor forcing women to have abortions aren’t really pro-choice. As obvious as this probably is to you and I, there are a lot of people out there (and some who read this blog) who think forced abortion fits in with a pro-choice worldview. But not doing such a post certainly doesn’t make you a hypocrite.

  26. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers November 18, 2008 at 10:58 am |


    Everything you have said disgusts and appalls me.

    It is *never* okay to treat a woman as a criminal for her reproduction. For any reason.

    You want to end overpopulation? GIVE WOMEN OTHER OPTIONS. There is a reason why women in America, Japan, England, Germany and France all have an average of less than 2 children apiece (which is 0 population growth.) It has nothing to do with being forced to abort a child you want. (Which, BTW, *is* murder, for the same reason that killing someone’s beloved pet animal is murder. If you commit an act against a human being which involves killing something they love and value as if it were human, you have, in that person’s eyes, committed murder, and you have done as much damage to *them* as if you had murdered a person they loved.)

    One woman can have three kids without destroying the Chinese way of life. And frankly the whole “We can’t afford those rapacious Chinese women to have more than two kids each!” bullshit sounds awfully racist. The problem would be if *all* Chinese women had three or more kids, and they don’t need to be coerced out of doing that with the threat of forced abortion… they need to be given reasons not to *want* more than one or two kids. Like, you know, the majority of Japanese and Western women.

    China needs social security to protect the needs of the aged without children, it needs women to get an equal education to men, it needs women to be able to get jobs that are equal to men’s jobs, and it needs free access to birth control. It probably has most of those things anyway. Women who have those things on *average* freely choose to have 2 or fewer children. So the many women who have no children balance out anyone who chooses to have more than 2.

    It is not acceptable to force a woman to have an abortion. Ever. In America, if you commit a crime, you go to jail. We don’t force you to have surgery and we don’t kill your pet cat.

    And Jenny… of course the problem that women cannot get abortions, or birth control, is awful, and no feminist would say it is not. But being forced to kill your wanted child is *every* bit as bad. In fact, it’s probably worse, psychologically, than being forced to be pregnant when you don’t want to be. Most people who end up being forced to have a child they didn’t want end up making the best of it and coming to love the child anyway — which is NOT a reason why people should be forced to be pregnant, I am completely opposed to forced pregnancy. But people do adjust better to the outcome of forced pregnancy than the outcome of forced abortion, because if you wanted a baby, you think of it as a person. In the mind of the pregnant woman who wanted her baby, a forced abortion is the murder of her child. *nothing* fucks human beings up harder than the murder of their children. Nothing. People will endure being raped, tortured, murdered or enslaved if they think that submitting themselves to that will save their children.

    I don’t see why feminists cannot agree that any forcing a woman in the matter of her reproduction — forcing her to be pregnant, forcing her to not be pregnant — is repugnant and a horrific violation we should protest. I will tell you this, I have been pregnant three times, with one ending in miscarriage and the other two fucking up my body hardcore, and if I had to choose between forced pregnancy (which at this point would essentially do enormous damage to my insides and could possibly give me diabetes for life) or forced abortion of the pregnancies I wanted, I would take forced pregnancy. Your *wanted* baby is your baby. When it dies, you grieve like it was a person. No woman should ever have to endure this.

    It is true that being forced to be pregnant against your will is a terrible terrible thing. But the thing about a perspective that says that *all* force in reproduction is wrong is that it allows you to say *both* that forced pregnancy is horrible *and* that forced abortion is terrible. It is actually possible to think both are awful and work to end them both. And creating a culture of female autonomy, where women are seen as in charge of their own bodies and their own lives, leads them to naturally choose to have fewer children, so it accomplishes the same goal as forced abortion without, you know, causing crushing psychological damage to women.

  27. Julie
    Julie November 18, 2008 at 11:25 am |

    Yeah Alara, absofuckinglutely. I have HAD the procedure they are trying to force this woman to have due to maternal health problems and the fact that my child was going to die upon birth. Anyone advocating for this horrendous and evil doing away of this woman’s human rights ever held your wanted child as they died in your arms? I have. It was a situation that scarred me more than I can ever describe, that even three and half years later I have a hard time talking about without crying. It is NEVER acceptable to force on anyone. Ever. I don’t agree with forced abortion EVER, but this woman is twenty six weeks pregnant and is being forced to kill a wanted child who is right at the line of viability because people think it’s ok to control women’s reproductive capabilities for some idea of the “greater good”. The idea that there are people on a feminist blog that agree with this or state that it’s not a feminist issue, makes me sick. This issue does not in any way pale in comparison to forced birth they are equally disgusting.

  28. Matt
    Matt November 18, 2008 at 12:01 pm |

    I’m the same Matt that made the earlier comment.

    I agree that a society full of educated people making healthy decisions would be ideal. I am also skeptical that that is a likely outcome of the world’s current development, and I’m considering other eventualities.

    I don’t remember ruling out forcing vasectomies on, shall we say… overly reproductive men. That also seems like a viable solution; and almost as unnecessary and invasive a surgical procedure as we’re discussing.

    I’m just a pessimist I guess, but I see population outstripping education. I’m not talking about the unpleasantness of forcing reproductive decisions on people in general, I’m talking hypothetically about whether it would be preferable to actual mass starvation and other problems associated with out of control population growth. Now let me just preempt what I’m sure will be the response. Hypothetically. Hypothetically. Hypothetically.

  29. beka
    beka November 18, 2008 at 1:21 pm |

    I agree that in an ideal world, governmental intrusion on a woman’s reproductive choice would not exist.

    However, this is not an ideal world.

    My class was once screened a documentary, a little out-of-date but still relevant, on the PRC’s One-Child Policy. An administrative official in that documentary said something to the effect of, ‘We can allow a few women to have more than one child, but the ultimate effect is snowballing, and then everyone wants more children, which is unsustainable.’

    The One-Child Policy is, I know, a complex issue.

    On the one hand, it really is necessary, or population growth would have outstripped resources (regardless of the policies that created/exacerbated this situation to begin with). I admit that the thought of male sterilisation is a compelling suggestion; if I recall correctly, the government also ‘permits’ minority groups to have more children, and pregnancies in women with IUDs don’t receive any interference.

    At the same time, there’s a class problem: families who can afford it simply continue residing in China and pay the extra-child fine (especially rural families who require more children for their agricultural life), or immigrate. And, of course, the question of reproductive choice.

    However – and I know it’s a distasteful stance – ultimately I have to say that I believe, while the CCPP may rescind the One-Child Policy in the future (and I will rejoice when they do), for now the status quo is still a necessity. I wish women’s bodies were not the collateral in this situation, and I agree that better access to contraception and education would improve the situation greatly, but the loss of the One-Child Policy would certainly have devastated the country. One should be thankful it was only a single-generation policy.

    (This is not intended to excuse the trauma to all those who lived through the Policy. And the situation other commenters have been describing – well-educated women with more opportunities than their mothers and grandmothers – has arisen, and I believe it will eventually negate the need for the One-Child Policy. But the idea of ‘national interest’ – which is central to many countries’ population policy – played an important role in the fundamental inception of the Policy.)

  30. Jenny
    Jenny November 18, 2008 at 1:51 pm |

    I repeat, why is there no “storm of international protest” over the many, many countries forcing women to undergo the far more invasive procedure of forced birth?

    …are you kidding? There have been no storms of protest over Roe and abortion rights in this country? I agree that the general public doesn’t care enough about international women’s rights, but to suggest that feminists don’t protest up a storm is pretty ignorant.

    I’m not suggesting that there’s no protest by feminist for abortion rights; I’m suggesting that I have never heard of one woman’s case being taken up as a cause for international intervention when that woman was being denied access to abortion. The original article states that a Republican congressman from New Jersey had contacted the Chinese ambassador to plead the woman’s case. When’s the last time you heard of a U.S. Representative writing to another country’s ambassador on behalf of a specific woman who was being denied access to abortion? This international outcry is the result of an anti-abortion agenda, not of concern for women’s rights.

    I’ll say it a little strong this time: You all who are coming onto this thread and suggesting that it’s somehow ok or even desirable for women to be forced into abortion? You completely fucking disgust me.

    Okay, Jill, I didn’t realize we needed to be in lockstep with your pogrom to comment here. I’ll gladly never do it again and delete Feministe (which I’ve been reading for the last six months) from my daily blog reading. Congratulations; with your abusive comment, you have successfully shut someone out of the conversation because she disagrees with your position on a single issue. Enjoy preaching to the choir.

  31. Cara
    Cara November 18, 2008 at 2:03 pm |

    Okay, Jill, I didn’t realize we needed to be in lockstep with your pogrom to comment here. I’ll gladly never do it again and delete Feministe (which I’ve been reading for the last six months) from my daily blog reading. Congratulations; with your abusive comment, you have successfully shut someone out of the conversation because she disagrees with your position on a single issue. Enjoy preaching to the choir.

    Because I’m not nearly as nice as Jill, I have a different response:


    Sorry, had to say it. If there’s someone who wants to call themselves obnoxious and kick themselves off the blog before we have to do it, I say we hold the door open for them. Their call, after all.

  32. Jenny
    Jenny November 18, 2008 at 2:10 pm |

    I don’t believe I was a abusive in the comment section. I took issue with the condescending tone of your remark that you needed to “explain” things to those who disagree with you, but I didn’t make a personal attack on you because you have a different position on this admittedly complex issue. You’re the one who said I “fucking disgust” you. That’s abusive. I have no problem with people “firing back” at my comments when they disagree, but if I can’t expect to offer a different perspective without being told I “fucking disgust” the blogger, I guess I am in the wrong place.

  33. oh-annalouise
    oh-annalouise November 18, 2008 at 2:28 pm |

    Jenny, I really think you should step back and prioritize. Are your hurt feelings more important than the emotions of a woman desperately fighting to save her child? What about Arzigul’s feelings? What about her pain?
    It seems really messed up for someone who so callously dismissed the suffering of another woman to then start crying about how abused she feels by being spoken to harshly.

  34. Ashley
    Ashley November 18, 2008 at 2:31 pm |

    I’m sorry Jenny, I don’t see where this is a complex issue. Women should never be forced to have an abortion or to give birth. If we take away rights, we make decisions for other people and treat them as inferior beings; like children. My great-aunt can still hardly talk about what was done to her; the decision was explained to her as being “for her own good.” This way, she was freed from having to struggle in poverty while she tried to raise children she couldn’t afford and was protected from the heartbreak that would inevitably follow when the fathers of those children left. Eugenics was no doubt part of the equation but the nurse she spoke to didn’t have the cajones to explain that to her.

    I can’t even begin to probe all the places that is wrong; what shines through most clearly for me is the removal of options for another person. When you take away someone’s choice for reproduction, you’re wrong. I admit to some curiosity, if incomprehension, that you would feel differently.

  35. Matt
    Matt November 18, 2008 at 2:40 pm |

    It might be close to off topic, but I don’t really think so…

    What is your prioritization in the hypothetical I described? What should China, for example, do if it actually became a population crisis. What if education and other relatively good social conditions just don’t do the work to prevent women from having a higher average number of children than is sustainable? What if it leads to widespread desperate poverty?

    In that circumstance, does the government try to control reproduction? It’s perfectly legitimate to say “No, forced abortion, or vasectomy, or anything else is simply the greater evil, and they should find some other way.” However, can you see how I might think that widespread poverty, starvation, etc. are the worse consequence, and that policing people who won’t police themselves isn’t as bad then as it is under other circumstances? You could still say no to that, but I’d be more suspicious of the answer.

  36. Matt
    Matt November 18, 2008 at 3:04 pm |

    Also Annalouise, Jenny never dismissed the suffering of Arzigul or suggested that it wasn’t real or valuable. The point she was making is that there is a grander scale of concern here. One can acknowledge and sympathize with pain and still think that the pain-causing action is the right course. The larger social and economic concerns of China as a nation are, frankly, more important than any one woman. Similarly, the fact that any other person in the world is in pain doesn’t invalidate her feelings. No one’s emotions become less valuable merely by virtue of someone else’s suffering.

  37. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers November 18, 2008 at 3:20 pm |

    What if education and other relatively good social conditions just don’t do the work to prevent women from having a higher average number of children than is sustainable?

    Okay, I’m an SF writer, so I’ll take this on.

    At the point where population is disastrous and you *must* do something to control the population, what you do is you implant all the women with Norplant and give all the men reversible vasectomies. Then you have a lottery to get licenses to have a child. When a couple wins the lottery, you undo the reversible sterilization until they have a child. Then you re-do it.

    If anyone manages to get pregnant *anyway* despite the fact that she is using birth control, let it go. At the point where you have made the default for humans “non-fertile” rather than “fertile”, the number of people who will successfully be able to reproduce illegally is so small, there would be no point to prosecuting it. Instead, harshly punish any doctor who enables an unauthorized person, male or female, to become fertile.

    We actually have, or in the very near future will have, these technologies. Routinely requiring that all teenage children have these implants put in (and heavy, heavy fines for parents of teenagers who don’t have them done, but the work to do it is free for the teen and family) would do vastly more to cut down the population than forcing people to have abortions, and cause much less emotional pain. Of course it’s expensive, but you can sell lottery tickets to recoup the loss. (Yes, this means poor people will be less likely to have children than rich people. In an environment where population explosion has caused dire consequences, I don’t see how this is avoidable.)

    But I do not believe it will come to that point, because the West HAS ALREADY SOLVED THE PROBLEM, and sooner or later people who are *interested* in controlling their population will observe, well, hey, the Japanese are doing it, the americans are doing it, the Germans are doing it, what are they doing that we could copy?

  38. exholt
    exholt November 18, 2008 at 3:23 pm |


    Why are you assuming governmental intervention in population control is more effective over allowing individuals to make their choices, especially when the population boom which prompted the “one-child policy” was also caused by the same type of heavy-handed government intervention in an effort to increase China’s population in the first place?

    Considering that the Maoist era efforts to grow the population with economic and social incentives during the 50’s and 60’s was done not too long after heavy population losses as a result of almost constant warfare from 1937-1953 along with the extreme impoverishment most in China already had to undergo as a result of decades of Western/Japanese colonialism, widespread political chaos, etc…….I doubt the population boom would have been much of an issue by the extreme late 1970’s if the Chinese citizens were left to make their own reproductive choices by their government…….

    As it stands now, China is a good case study in why government intervention in population control is actually counterproductive along with their wanton disregard of their citizens’ bodily autonomy.

    If the history of how all this developed wasn’t so tragic, the chutzpah of the Chinese Communist Party government in suddenly implementing the “one-child policy” after that very party and government was the root cause of the problem which prompted such A policy would be laughably comedic. :roll:

  39. Matt
    Matt November 18, 2008 at 3:32 pm |


    I’m not assuming anything. If I ever do, I’ll say so explicitly. I think the internet must just filter out the word hypothetical. The only response I ever get is “But that just isn’t the case.” I know. That’s why I said hypothetical.

    I guess that means I’m going off topic. If you don’t want discussion this off topic, I apologize. I’m trying to figure out where reproductive freedom sits in peoples hierarchy of moral goodness and badness. Specifically, is avoiding large overpopulation a good enough excuse to control reproduction. I don’t want ways to avoid the hypothetical. That just defeats the purpose of having it. It is designed to give me certain information. Avoiding it gives me no information.

  40. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers November 18, 2008 at 4:53 pm |

    Specifically, is avoiding large overpopulation a good enough excuse to control reproduction.

    No. Because “avoiding” a problem means the problem hasn’t occurred yet, and if it hasn’t occurred yet, you should try less draconian, but tried-and-true, strategies.

    Only if the population explosion has *already* happened can you control reproduction, ethically. And it is still ethically wrong to abort wanted pregnancies, even then, *and* to place a disproportionate burden of pop.control on women. Last I checked, women cannot knock themselves up.

    An iron clad policy of vasectomizing every man who has had two children would be both more merciful than forcing abortions (quite aside from the emotional impact of forced abortion, it is much easier to vasectomize a man than to sterilize a woman), and would bring enormous social pressures to bear on women that would prevent them from becoming pregnant again even if they did *nothing* legally to prevent it. Specifically, if a man is vasectomized and his wife gets pregnant… she will quietly get an abortion as soon as she finds out, without telling him, otherwise he will think she cheated on him.

    Sure, some women might go through the male population as serial moms, dating men who have not had their quota of kids, getting pregnant, and thus having multiple children legally. But the whole *problem* with China is that women mostly do not have the freedom to do that. If women had the freedom to raise five kids by themselves, each with a different father, being freely sexual with any man they choose… Chinese women wouldn’t be aborting their baby girls or abandoning them in orphanages, and most likely, the majority of Chinese women wouldn’t be having more than 1 or 2 kids. When women have the freedom to make a life as a single mother with a minimum of stigma, with their children cared for, then women also have the freedom to choose not to be mothers at all, and a lot of women will take that choice if they can.

    Now, morally I don’t like restricting men any better than I like restricting women, so in an ideal world, either you restrict neither and rely on incentives to get people to do what you want, or you restrict both. What makes *no* sense is restricting women but not men. The operation to vasectomize a man is easy, more reversible than tying a woman’s tubes, has fewer complications, is cheaper than long-term birth control, doesn’t cause the death of a wanted baby, doesn’t force major physical surgery or hormonal shifts on anyone, and once he’s vasectomized you can count on the sexism of the society and the patriarchal nature of it and male jealousy to keep the woman he’s partnered with from having more kids than he can father. Restricting women, but not men, is not based on a model of effective pop. control; it’s based on a model of punishing women for being able to have babies.

    So here’s my opinion: when your population explosion is already running away with itself to a dangerous extent, *then* you may implement population control techniques, but you should do so in a way that seeks to be fair, egalitarian, safe for people, and effective, so prevention of pregnancy is *still* better than forced abortion. You may not implement pop. control techniques *before* the explosion happens… in the 1960’s everyone thought we were headed for a population explosion too, and then the second and third waves of feminism happened, and now American right-wingers whine about demographic winter and the coming extinction of the Europeans.

  41. Matt
    Matt November 18, 2008 at 5:56 pm |

    A very reasonable opinion. Although I might still support tube tying women who have had some number of pregnancies. I see no reason to place ALL the responsibility with men.

  42. Cara
    Cara November 18, 2008 at 7:26 pm |

    Although I might still support tube tying women who have had some number of pregnancies.


    [and for the record, no I do not support forcible vasectomies either.]

  43. Bridgetka
    Bridgetka November 18, 2008 at 10:03 pm |


    I don’t remember ruling out forcing vasectomies on, shall we say… overly reproductive men. That also seems like a viable solution; and almost as unnecessary and invasive a surgical procedure as we’re discussing.

    Right, because a vasectomy is totally in the same ballpark as a third trimester abortion. Women have ID&Es on their lunchbreak! Just some lidocaine and a snip of the hemostats and ta-da! 26 weeks of pregnancy never even happened!

  44. Cara
    Cara November 18, 2008 at 10:09 pm |

    Jill, I was wondering the same thing. I mean, I did ban him. I think it’s a different Matt, but I’m too lazy to check right now.

  45. Julie
    Julie November 18, 2008 at 10:39 pm |

    Totally Bridgetka! It’s almost like the three days I spent in the hospital being pumped full of drugs, the 8 hours of labor (the baby comes out on it’s own my ass), the week I spent with my breasts wrapped in ace bandages to reduce the swelling because my milk had come in, the six weeks I was supposed to wait before I could have sex again, the lovely month long period that followed, the 3 months I spent on anti-depressants hardly able to function, the dreams were I would wake up looking for the child who wasn’t there is like a 15 minute out patient procedure with a typical recovery period of 2-3 days. I really wish somebody had been around to explain that to me before!! I can absolutely see how forcing someone to go through that isn’t a total and complete violation of their human rights- hell, they knew when they got pregnant that there would be consequences, right? /snark
    And to be clear, I don’t advocate forced vasectomies either. It’s that pesky bodily autonomy thing- either we have it or we don’t.

  46. Matt
    Matt November 18, 2008 at 11:52 pm |

    No, it’s the same Matt. My apologies: if I’m banned I’ll stop posting. I wouldn’t want to disrupt debate with opposing opinions.

  47. Via Jill at Feministe comes the sad news … [Forced Abortion]

    […] Jill at Feministe comes the sad news that the Chinese government is attempting to force a woman to end her pregnancy […]

  48. mercurious
    mercurious March 25, 2009 at 5:39 pm |

    Hi, I only wish China would treat Tibetan women too with genuine respect and equality. Sadly they do not as apparent from an article which discussed an issue I had not heard of before and wanted to’s a hot topic but with a little patience in reading I learned a’s the link

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