This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, June 30, 2014

China Works to Avoid New Rise in Infanticide

Infanticide is known to have been used in China for centuries as a means of family control, if not fertility control. In the early days of the one-child policy, before the advent of sex-selective abortion (not legal, but done nonetheless), it was a way for parents to deal with the unwanted birth a daughter. According to CNN, there seems now to be a new threat to children in China--being abandoned by your parents if you are disabled. The government has responded with "baby hatches," which are places where parents can leave their children, so that they will be taken care of by the state. This hearkens back to practices of the Catholic Church in 19th century Italy, designed then as well to save unwanted children.
The first pilot hatch was introduced in 2011. Now there are 32 across the country, according to the official Xinhua news agency. "We had to find a more humane way to take in abandoned babies," said Dr. Wang Zhenyao, one of the founders for China's child welfare policy and a retired Ministry of Civil Affairs official. "In reality, children were being thrown into trash cans, on the side of roads, in front of hospitals, or in front of the Ministry of Civil Affairs so we had to standardize it and regulate it."
According to UNICEF, there were around 712,000 orphans in China in 2010, but child welfare groups believe that the number could be in the millions if you account for children in non-government orphanages and foster homes. Unlike in the 1980s and 90s, when most abandoned babies were girls, now most suffer from a range of disabilities and medical conditions, such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, congenital heart disease, club feet and cleft lips.
In a country with no welfare program to help parents with disabled children, and where the one-child policy dictates that this may well be the parents' only child, some parents are obviously driven to extreme measures. This is a reminder, yet again, that the one-child policy has many unintended human rights consequences.

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