PRI Review Podcast – Trouble In China’s Two-Child Policy; Government Funding Poses Problems for Catholic Education; Indian States Impose Limit On Families of Employees

Trouble In China’s Two-Child Policy – demographics is colliding with ideology; Government Funding Poses Problems for Catholic Education as hard-left attacks moral policies; Indian States Impose Limit On Families of Employees, forcing many to quit, others to consider aborting third child

We begin with our Weekly Briefing:

Chinese Women Continue to Face Coercion, Crippling Fines Under Two-Child Policy

It has been a year since China’s Communist Party announced that it would be ending its notorious one-child policy and replacing it with a new policy which now permits all married couples to have up to two children. Despite the change, which some observers have described as a relaxing of the planned birth policy, coercion and human rights abuses remain.

As was the case under the one-child policy, the government continues to retain firm control over women’s reproductive autonomy. Couples who violate the new policy still face steep fines equal to as much as three to ten times their annual household income.

The use of fines remains a holdover from the former one-child policy and has become the primary mechanism used by the state, at least officially, to ensure compliance with the new policy. In places where local officials believe that fines have been insufficient to meet targets for the number of births per annum, other methods, which vary by locality in both type and application, have also been used to ensure compliance.

Women continue to face significant pressure and heavy-handed persuasion tactics from family planning officials to abort their children if they are over their birth quota. “We’ll definitely find you and persuade you to do an abortion,” one family planning official told an undercover investigator posing as a woman pregnant with her third child as part of a recent investigation by the BBC into China’s two-child policy.

Women who fail to comply with the policy could still “in principle” be compelled to submit to an abortion, by physical force if necessary, according to one family planning official.

The threat of forced abortion remains all too real for many. “If we weren’t in hiding, they would have forced us to have an abortion,” a local told the BBC who had fled their village with his wife when she became pregnant with their third child.

Many couples also continue to be threatened with loss of employment if they refuse to abort their third child. This past summer, it was reported that a woman in the sixth month of her pregnancy was threatened with job loss if she failed to abort.

Recently, some courts have begun to side with women who have been fired for violating the planned birth policies, but progress has been slow.

In seven provinces, including Fujian, Guangdong, Guizhou, Hainan, Jiangxi, Yunnan, and Zhejiang, it still remains a matter of public policy that employers can fire their employees for being over their birth quota.

While some employees fired from private companies have resorted to the courts, many workers do not have this option available to them. Legal experts have noted that civil servants can still be fired from their posts with no possibility for recourse if they violate the two-child policy.

Under the new policy, it is still illegal for unmarried women to give birth. For unmarried women who find themselves pregnant, the two-child policy is effectively a zero-child policy.

In many places, invasive semi-annual sonogram pregnancy screenings continue to be mandatory for all women of reproductive age. Women who are discovered to be pregnant with their third child are counseled to submit to an abortion or face crippling fines.

The attitudes of family planning officials toward the government’s birth regulation policy have largely remained unchanged. Even as China faces a demographic crisis and rapid aging in the coming years, officials continue to believe that the state-imposed birth limits are in the best interest of the Chinese people as a whole.

Under the one-child policy, family planning officials perpetrated countless human rights abuses. Initially, couples were only allowed one child each. After female infanticide began appearing in some rural areas, due to strong preference for sons, the policy was quickly expanded to allow two children for couples in rural areas if their first child was a girl. In some places this led to implementation of a de facto two-child policy while in others, the application of this exception was tightly monitored. Unmarried women and women under the age of 23 who conceived were not eligible to give birth. Women could also be required to abort if they were within their birth quota but conceived too soon after the birth of their first child.

Women who dared to defy the government mandate were often forced to flee to a neighboring county or even to a foreign country to escape the family planning police. PRI’s investigators have come across many women who suffered at the hands of the planned birth program. One of these women, who after being forced into hiding when she became pregnant with her second child, purchased the body of an aborted infant to show to the local planning officials in order to convince them that she had terminated her pregnancy as required.

Other women who had exceeded the number of allowed births saw their property and livestock confiscated and their homes ransacked or demolished as retribution. They sometimes saw their relatives imprisoned for ransom. Many family planning offices had jail cells on the premises for this very reason. At times, entire villages were punished if there was as much as one unpermitted birth.

Prohibitively expensive fines, similar to those seen to this day, were levied under the one-child policy for couples over their birth quota. Those caught having to pay fines were often left having to pay back money borrowed from family and neighbors for many years.

While the use of physical force was officially prohibited, as it still is today, it is well-documented that forced abortion and forced sterilization were widely practiced and rarely punished.

Women forcibly aborted in many instances would be injected with a long syringe through the abdomen which would kill the fetus in utero. Typically doctors waited for women to miscarry the dead child, but occasionally the corpse would be removed via C-section. Aborted infants were subsequently dropped into waste bins or loaded onto wheelbarrows and dumped into ditches.

Women who managed to give birth under the one-child policy could be required by local family planning officials to report to the health clinic for sterilization. Children born “illegally” were denied registration (“hukou”). These so-called “black children” were not allowed to attend school, receive health care at a government health clinic and, when they became older, would be ineligible to hold a government job or to get married.

This past January, Vice Minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission Wang Pei’an maintained that the Communist Party would continue to regulate births for the foreseeable future, for “at least 20 years, 30 years.”

Chinese regime leader Xi Jinping has also stressed his commitment to continue promoting the planned birth policies. In a written statement to the Family Planning Association, according to the Press Trust of India, Xi maintained that “the population issue has always been an overall, long-term, strategic issue facing our country…the tensions between population and resources and environment will not fundamentally change.”

Despite Xi’s belief that population control is necessary for economic development, demographers and economists have warned that China’s shrinking pool of working-age adults, due in part to 35 years of limiting births under the one-child policy, could hinder economic growth in the coming years.

As China’s population rapidly ages, old-age dependency is set to increase dramatically. By 2060, China will be among the top 15 oldest countries in the world, with six residents over 65 for every working-age adult, according to projections from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

The new two-child policy may be too little, too late to stop the demographic transition now already taking effect. By the time the children being born today turn 20 years old, the ratio of retirement age to working age persons will have more than doubled, according to U.N. data. While there were 5.6 working-age adults for every retirement age adult in China last year, there are projected to be fewer than 2.4 working-age adults per retiree by 2035.

While the China National Bureau of Statistics projects 40-50 percent of births will be at second parity in a few years’ time, the number of higher order births continues to lag far behind countries that have sustainable fertility rates. In the United States, over 60 percent of all births were of an order higher than first parity in 2014.

The total fertility rate in China remains unsustainable for long-term growth, a rate that, by U.N. projections, could currently be as low as 1.58.

While it is generally assumed that a total fertility rate of 2.1 is the threshold necessary to achieve population replacement, this rate typically only applies to developed countries. In China, replacement fertility is slightly higher than 2.1 on account of higher mortality rates for children and adults of reproductive age. Furthermore, due to the widespread practice of sex-selective abortion in China, more births are needed than would typically be required otherwise to offset the negative effect created by the gender imbalance.

Even if the planned birth policies are lifted, there would still remain a long road ahead for China to regain replacement level fertility. Decades of propaganda promoting a one-child family norm have effectively changed fertility intentions for couples. Many couples in China today now perceive a second or third child as too expensive. Generally, family sizes tend to shrink as nations become more urban, more educated, and more economically prosperous. As China continues to further advance in these areas, a return to sustainable fertility levels may become even more difficult.

This is PRI Review from We’ll be right back.

Second Segment:

Government Funding Challenges Catholic Schools’ Integrity

Few Americans today realize that the public school movement began 150 years ago as part of an attack on the Catholic Church.

In the mid-nineteenth century, Protestant “Know-Nothings” won elections throughout the country. For practical purposes, their political platform was one word: Anti-Catholic.

The Know-Nothings railed against the millions of newly-arrived Catholic immigrants. Most of these newcomers were Europeans – Two generations of Irish who had been starved by their English overlords in two government-imposed famines; German Catholics who had been kicked out by the virulently anti-Catholic chancellor Bismarck; and many more.

All of these immigrants were legal, but that didn’t matter to America’s anti-Catholic elites. We recall that the Ku Klux Klan’s membership comprised at least one-third of prominent businessmen from Pittsburgh all the way through the Midwest to Saint Louis in those days – and the Klansmen hated Catholics a lot more than they hated Blacks or Jews.

Not only were these newly-arrived Europeans called “criminals,” they also had a lot of kids and were starting their own schools, complete with armies of foreign nuns to teach them and papist priests to catechize them. According to Rousas Rushdoony’s history of education, Horace Mann, who founded the public school movement in Massachusetts in the 1850s, believed that “the [public] schools are the means, instruments, vehicles, and true church by which salvation is given to society.” Given that goal, Mann “changed the function of education from ‘mere learning’ or religiously-oriented education to ‘social efficiency, civic virtue, and character.’”

Sadly, Rushdoony notes that,(by the twentieth century, character “ceased to be a concern” in the public schools.

Horace Mann also demanded that control of community schools be transferred into state hands.

A decade later and a continent away, another pioneer took up the cause. John Swett was responsible for “framing the basic legislation of the state system” as California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction during the 1860s. Swett made his goals perfectly clear: “Children arrived at the age of maturity belong not to the parents but to the State, to society, and to the country,” he insisted – so children should be educated not according to the beliefs of their parents, but those of the government. The “civil religion” taught in government schools was designed to neutralize the papist heresies taught in the parochial schools. For the Know-Nothings, Catholic families were not only the competition: they were the enemy. Catholics were inferiors that had to be raised to the level of civic virtue expected of everyone else.

Swett objected to parents having any role in the education of their children. He ended the policy by which parents reviewed teachers every year, with the parents having the final approval to hire and fire them. A rabid Unitarian, Swett was so popular to generations of secular government school employees that he is considered the founder of California’s most powerful teachers union, which continues to impose Swett’s radical agenda today on millions of helpless California schoolchildren.

By the way, California’s public schools rank near the bottom in every category of the entire fifty States. But hey, so what? Teachers unions don’t protect good teachers – they don’t need any protection, but they are forced by state law to join the union. So the unions receive a quarter of a billion dollars a year in dues per year, $100 million of which they admit are spent on pure politics.

Moreover, California’s public employee union pension funds are underfunded to the tune of one-third of a TRILLION dollars. Catholic schools in California can’t get a cent of the millions that Catholic parents pay in taxes, but you can bet that government bureaucrats will make the taxpayers – including Catholics – bail them out, by the hundred billions, when their bloated gravy train breaks down.

But they’re the only game in town. The result? Most California public high school graduates need remedial math and English merely to get into community colleges at the lowest level – 90% of them, in fact.

As Joe Sobran once observed, we used to teach Greek and Latin in public high schools. Now we teach remedial English in College.

So much for the background. In spite of this formidable opposition, Catholics and Catholic schools continued to prosper – all on the local level. Washington had nothing to do with education. After all, as Sociologist Robert Nisbet once observed, in 1913, the years he was born, the only connection the average American had with the Federal Government was the Post Office.

But then came Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s, and with it, intrusion of the federal government into every aspect of American social and cultural life. At the same time, Roosevelt threatened the Supreme Court – successfully, alas – to support his destruction of the rights of states and communities to govern their own affairs, including the education of their children.

As taxes on Catholic families rose under Roosevelt, Catholics found they needed federal government permission to channel some of the taxes they pay to help fund the education of their children. In a series of famous cases from the 1930s stretching all the way to the early 1960s, the Supreme Court paved the way for the secularization of American public education that has only become even more radicalized since.

By 1963, even reading the Bible in public schools was found to be unconstitutional by the court – which was led at the time by Chief Justice Earl Warren, whose appointment President Dwight D. Eisenhower later called his biggest mistake.

So by 1963, Catholic parents seemed to be out of luck when it came to applying any of their tax dollars to the education of their children. But the page started to turn in 1965 (the year the Second Vatican Council ended) when LBJ, with his “Great Society,” offered countless billions in taxpayer funds to finance the “Social Justice” agenda – and, in a move both clever and insidious, to fund Catholic higher education, hospitals, and welfare agencies.

All this came at a price, and Notre Dame, my alma mater, paid it immediately.

For 120 years, Notre Dame had been governed by the priests of the Holy Cross order that founded it. But the university quickly laicized its board to become eligible. To make their position even clearer, the university joined several other Catholic institutions and signed the Land o’Lakes Charter, declaring their independence from Rome, the Holy Father, and traditional Catholic teaching – all so they could lobby Congress for more taxpayer dollars.

And lobby they did. Today, while Notre Dame proudly proclaims its independence from the church, it is quick to comply dutifully with every directive, however, capricious or onerous, from the federal bureaucracy that provides so much of its funding. After Obama appeared at Notre Dame’s commencement in 2009, Notre Dame had a record year of fundraising because of a $30-million dollar taxpayer-funded grant that came in a few months later.

Notre Dame serves as a microcosm reflecting what has gone on everywhere ever since – in Catholic dioceses, colleges, universities, hospitals, and welfare agencies that it calls “charities.” To be sure, several brave bishops strived mightily to curb the excesses – the sidelining of the fundamentals of the faith, and often the outright rebellion among chancery bureaucracies and tenured faculties of formerly Catholic institutions. But those few bishops largely failed – mostly because they were hesitant to exercise their full and genuine authority to protect the faith and the faithful.

Since the 1960s, these “Catholic” institutions have received tens of billions of taxpayer dollars – an emolument now considered by bishops to be indispensable, given the decline in Sunday collections and the departure of thirty million Catholics from the Church after the “reforms” began. Bishops routinely hire professional lobbyists and PR experts (many who are profoundly opposed to Catholic teaching) to pursue and preserve that funding – by getting it from the government.

Meanwhile, most of the faithful are totally unaware that this taxpayer funding of their bishops even exists. Of course, the bishops are aware, but only rarely do they bother to tell the people in the pews. And while Catholic bishops undoubtedly believe that they receive this funding because they are such good guys, anyone on Capitol Hill can tell you that every dollar of federal funding comes with a price tag.

And what is that price for America’s Catholic bishops? Well, consider: most Catholic bishops are about my age, and, like me, most grew up in Democrat households. When they entered the seminary at high-school or college age, their studies concentrated on a mastery of philosophy, theology, biblical studies, Church history, and apologetics.

What little they knew about politics they brought with them from home.

Today they constantly crusade for the agenda of the party we all grew up with ­– “global warming,” amnesty for illegal aliens, raising the minimum wage, Obamacare (minus abortion coverage), massive funding for failed poverty programs, increased foreign aid (which under Obama has included billions for “family planning” – contraception and even “free and universal” abortion on demand), and the rest of the Democrats’ “Social Justice” agenda.

This crusade goes hand in hand with a policy of silence regarding any possible criticism of Catholic politicians who champion abortion rights.

This has all been going on for quite a while, of course. In fact, the first grant that the newly-minted neighborhood organizer Barack Obama received long ago came from the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago.

Most U.S. bishops have been critical of President-Elect Donald Trump. It is an open question, whether they will be able to work with him to reverse the virulently anti-Catholic policies of the Obama Administration, on the one hand, if they are afraid of losing the billion dollars a year that they receive from the government on the other.

We live in interesting times. Stay tuned.

This is PRI Review from We’ll be right back.

Third Segment:

Indian State Proposes A Two-Child Limit for Government Employees

A state in northeast India, is currently considering a bill which would impose a two-child limit on all government employees.

“If a person wants to do a job with the Assam government, that person should not have more than two children,” said the Assam Minister of Education, Health, and Finance Himanta Biswa Sarma in a press conference according to the Northeast Today , a media outlet based in northeast India. “When the policy comes into effect, those who are in government jobs and already have two children should not go for a third child. If an employee will have more than two children while on job, that particular employee will lose his or her job,” Sarma said.

The policy would disqualify any candidate with more than two children from running for a local, municipal, or district office. Government employees and local elected representatives who have a third child while in office would be forced to resign. The policy proposal raises the prospect that many women will be coerced into resorting to abortion in order to save their jobs if they are over their two-child limit.

The initiative has been spearheaded by Mr. Sarma, a high-ranking politician in the Assam state government. The proposed measure is set to be introduced to the Assam Legislative Assembly during the upcoming budget session which runs from February to March of this year. The initiative has received support from members of the Bharatiya Janata Party which enjoys a comfortable majority in Assam’s unicameral legislature. It appears that the measure is likely to pass.

Lawmakers have also planned on passing a measure which will require all textbooks from the fifth grade and on to include chapters on population control.

If adopted, Assam would become the eighth state in India to adopt a two-child limit for government employees. Local elected representatives are already barred from having a third child in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Bihar, Gujarat, and Uttarakhand.

It is unlikely that Assam’s two-child policy would be overturned by the courts in the event of a legal challenge. India’s Supreme Court has upheld two-child limits in other states as constitutional.

Few in Assam see any issues with the new policy. Observers have generally discounted the possibility that the law would coerce couples to resort to abortion or sterilization.

“The state government neither intends to compel anyone to adhere to the two-children norm nor would it use coercion as a means to implement the Policy,” Wasbir Hussain wrote in an article published in the Sentinel, a major media outlet in northeast India, “In principle, there should be no problem with this Policy.”

But for many elected representatives, two-child policies have forced them to make a difficult choice between having another child or keeping their job.

A study[1] conducted by Nirmala Buch interviewed a number of elected representatives across India who had been forced to resign under two-child statutes. Ram Prakash, a sarpanch (village leader) in Madhya Pradesh, was forced out of office after the birth of his last child. “The sarpanch’s post is not going to support me during my old age, but my son will,” Prakash had said.

Two-child limits generally allow two children per marriage, a loophole that has been exploited by polygamous male elected representatives. In many places where a two-child policy is in effect, male elected representatives have abandoned or divorced their spouses in order to be in compliance with the policy. Others have taken a second wife so as to be able to have more children and still retain their government posts.

Because men in India often decide alone the number of children couples will have, some female elected representatives have been forced from their posts due to their husband’s desire for a third child. Other women have been forced to hide their pregnancies, registering their children under the names of their relatives or refusing to register them altogether. [2]

Many women have also resorted to abortion to save their government posts.

Buch’s investigation encountered a woman by the name of Maheshwari who became pregnant while running for a local post in Andhra Pradesh. To prevent herself from being disqualified from the election she aborted her child five months into the pregnancy. Maheshwari lost the election. Soon thereafter, her two-year-old son died after drinking kerosene. [3]

The two-child policy has led some elected representatives to abandon their children. Ram Kunwar, a sarpanch from Rajasthan, became pregnant with a fourth child:

Being aware of the two-child norm in panchayats, she had taken admission for delivery in the hospital in another city in her sister-in-law’s name. She…left the female infant behind in town to avoid detection where it died at the age of six months allegedly of ‘rickets.’ [4]

Due to a strong cultural preference for sons in India, elected representatives are more likely to sacrifice their government posts only if their third child is a boy rather than a girl. Son preference in states where two-child policies are enforced have led many women to resort to sex-selective abortion, disproportionately aborting children if they are female.

While sex-selective abortion remains a problem across much of India, two-child policies appear to significantly exacerbate the practice among wealthy citizens in states where these policies are in effect.

According to a paper[5] by S. Anukriti, Assistant Professor of Economics at Boston College, and Abhishek Chakravarty at the University of Essex, when a two-child policy is implemented, women from upper castes are about 0.7 percent more likely to give birth to a boy than a girl if their first child was a girl. After two-child policies are put into place, however, upper-caste women are more than 3 percent more likely to have a boy if their first child was a girl, indicating that women may be resorting to sex-selective abortion to secure for themselves a son before their birth quota is filled.

One of the women interviewed in the Buch study leaves little doubt that two-child policies cause sex-selective abortion. Menka, a twenty-six year old village-level panchayat in Odisha, decided to keep her fourth child after she had been told that she was having a boy. But when the child was born, it became apparent that the doctors had determined the child’s sex incorrectly. ‘If I had known [that the child was a girl], I would have aborted. Now I have lost my [government] position and there is no son,” Menka said.[6]

A two-child policy would undoubtedly exacerbate the practice of sex-selective abortion in Assam. Sex-selective abortion is already a major problem in the state. According to preliminary results from the India National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4), Assam overall has an estimated sex ratio at birth of 107.6, a rate which could be normal but is somewhat high for a state similar to Assam’s level of socioeconomic development. Sex-selection becomes apparent, however, when the state is divided along urban and rural lines. In rural areas, the sex ratio at birth is 105.8. But in urban areas, 125.9 boys are born for every 100 girls, a ratio that is higher than many provinces in China were under the one-child policy.

While perceived as strong, the proposed two-child policy has met little resistance from lawmakers or the media. Supporters of the measure believe that the policy will set an example for Assam residents, encouraging them to reduce their fertility intentions.

However, women’s decision to limit fertility under the policy may have a more pragmatic, rather than an aspirational, motivation. After two-child policies are ratified (but before they go into effect), the number of women having their third child noticeably increases as couples rush to have their third before the penalties are in place. [7] After the policy goes into effect, however, the likelihood of women having a third child immediately decreases.[8]

If the role-model theory for fertility reduction were predominant in two-child policies, the fertility decline should be gradual. But as fertility at third parity immediately declines once the policy goes into effect, many women may simply be trying to keep their birth quotas open in the event that they should choose to run for office.

Two-child policies in India have fallen disproportionately hard on the poor. In 1992, the Indian Government formally instituted the Panchayati Raj, the modern panchayat system—a democratic system that provides governance on a local level. Panchayat posts are available at the village, municipal, and district levels and offer a means of economic opportunity for many. A two-child policy would affect a large number of Assam’s residents. The Government of Assam employs over 20,000 men and women in panchayats across the state.

In most states where a two-child policy is in effect, elected representatives and government officials are not removed from their posts unless someone brings a complaint against them. As a result, voters from opposing parties often use the law as political sabotage against their opponents. This mechanism falls particularly hard on elected representatives from marginalized castes. Wealthy elected representatives have the financial resources to appeal their cases in court while the poor, having little money for the costs associated with going to court, are forced to deal with the consequences of the accusations brought against them.[9]

Elected representatives from lower castes are also more likely to have more children than their upper-caste counterparts. Lower caste families must have more children because their children are more likely to die from disease or poor health before reaching adulthood. For much of India’s poor, children are the only means to financial security in old age.

Instituting a two-child policy in Assam also carries the risk of discriminating against minorities and immigrants. The policy is generally perceived by many Assam natives as necessary to curb population growth in the state, specifically among Muslim immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh who have more children on average than ethnic-Assamese and whose numbers have swelled in recent years.

But recent demographic trends tell a different story. Assam’s total fertility rate has plummeted overall. While women were having an average of 3.5 children over their reproductive lifetimes in 1993, that number has dropped to 2.2 today, a number which sits slightly below India’s replacement fertility rate (2.25 according to UNDESA).

In urban areas, where ethnic Assamese constitute a larger percentage of the population, fertility has sunk even further, dipping as low as 1.5 children per woman this year, according to the National Family and Health Survey. At this rate, urban areas will see a noticeable decline in the number of births and, without an increase in immigration or rural-to-urban migration, will see significant population contraction. Given the demographic decline in Assam, it would stand to reason that the state would benefit from investing in programs to better incorporate migrants in the state, many of which are currently living on the margins of society. In fact, India as a whole could do without two-child policies—every state with a two-child policy is below replacement fertility.

A two-child policy in Assam will not bring about better economic outcomes for Assamese citizens and threatens to unnecessarily target and burden lower castes, the poor, and immigrants. It would also unnecessarily place undue burden on women and on people from lower socioeconomic strata that wish to run for panchayat posts. The policy threatens to encourage men to abandon their wives if they intend to have more than two children, and will undoubtedly increase the incidence of sex-selective abortion.

Assam’s poor don’t need population control programs. They need roads and bridges to get their agricultural goods to market, access to secure housing, and better educational opportunities to help lift them out of poverty. If the Assam Government is serious about promoting development, they should abandon the poorly contrived and reckless two-child policy.

This is PRI Review from Thanks for Listening.

[1] Buch N. Law of two-child norm in panchayats: implications, consequences and experiences. Economic and Political Weekly 2005; 40(24): 2421-2429.

[5] ] Anukriti S, Chakravarty A. Political aspirations in India: evidence from fertility limits on local leaders. IZA Discussion Paper No. 9023; 2015. Available at SSRN: .

[9] Buch, 2005.


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