PRI Review – September 13, 2018

  • Nearly 125 Indian Members of Parliament Back Petition to Introduce a Two-Child Policy
  • Chinese Provincial Government Calls for an End to Birth Restrictions
  • The PRC’s Planned Birth Policy continues its shift towards more births
  • Victory in Argentina: How We Defeated the International Abortion Lobby and Protected the Right to Life

First Segment

Nearly 125 Indian Members of Parliament Back Petition to Introduce a Two-Child Policy

“India should not repeat China’s mistake,” Steven Mosher says

 

Nearly 125 lawmakers in India’s Parliament have signed a petition to Indian President Ram Nath Kovind, calling for a nationwide two-child policy. MPs who signed the petition have called for a law prohibiting Indian couples from having more than two children with stiff penalties for couples who exceed the proposed two-child limit.

On August 9th, four MPs from the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh met with President Kovind to personally deliver the petition letter and to make known their concerns about population growth. Also attending the meeting with President Kovind was Anil Chaudhary, representing a radical population control advocacy organization in India that has actively lobbied for a nationwide “maximum two-child policy for all” law for three years.

“We have submitted a document signed by almost 125 MPs to the President and we have demanded a law on this so that we can control the increasing population,” said MP Ganesh Singh, one of the four MPs who delivered the letter to President Kovind.

Following the submission of the petition letter, Chaudhary called on lawmakers to introduce stiff penalties to enforce the proposed two-child policy, once the proposal is adopted. “[W]hoever flouts that law … [whoever] proceeds … [to have a] third child, they should not get any government [benefits] and their voting rights should be withheld,” Chaudhary said. He added that any couple that has a fourth child should be jailed.

All four lawmakers that met with President Kovind were members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata (BJP). All MPs signing the petition were members of parties that are part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the ruling right-wing political coalition in the Modi government.

In India, the president does not exercise much power. However, the president does serve as the ceremonial head of state and as a check on the balance of power. The MPs’ meeting with the president is certain to lend high-profile credibility and publicity to the lawmakers’ push for a two-child policy law.

While fears of a falling birth rate have caused the Chinese Government to allow two children per family, fears of overpopulation are pushing India in the opposite direction.

“India should not repeat China’s mistakes,” says Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “People are the ultimate resource—the one resource you cannot do without. China has finally that after having eliminated 400 million from their own now aging and dying population.”

Last month, BJP lawmakers in both houses of Parliament made demands for a nationwide population control law, claiming that population growth threatens to outpace gains made in area of development. The requests were made during the ‘Zero Hour,’ a period of the legislative session where lawmakers can, with the permission of the Speaker, raise issues of urgent public importance. Uday Pratap Singh, a BJP MP in India’s lower house, specifically called on the government to introduce a two-child policy, citing China’s one-child policy as an example of policies that other countries have implemented to control population growth.

Last September, the Assam state government, led by the BJP, adopted a two-child policy which prohibits anyone with more than two children from holding a government job or from running for election for local government office.While several states had initiated two-child policies for government employees during the 1990’s and the early 2000’s, Assam is the first state in 10 years to adopt such a policy. Many states, including Himachal Pradesh, Mad–ya Pradesh, Hary–ana, and Chat–is–gar have since repealed their two-child policies.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of India received at least three separate Public Interest Litigation pleas, asking the Court to compel the Government to implement a nationwide two-child policy. One of the petitions was filed by Delhi BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay. He based his case on the 2002 report of the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution. The commission had recommended that an amendment be added to the Constitution of India to “secure control of the population by means of education and implementation of small family norms.”

In 2000, the commission had been authorized by the NDA-controlled Parliament to offer recommendations to lawmakers for new constitutional amendments. The government’s refusal to adopt the commission’s recommendation for a population control amendment has long been a point of frustration for some NDA partisans.

Another case filed by Anuj Sax-eena and others petitioned the Supreme Court to direct the Indian Government to adopt Strict Population control Measures. The petition called for rewarding families adhering to [the] two child policy and to punish those who don’t. Saxena  claimed that India’s “unprecedented and lethal population explosion” threatens the environment and contributes to unemployment, poverty, and overcrowding.

The Supreme Court has refused to hear both the Saxena and Upadhyay cases for procedural reasons. In the Saxena case, the Court dismissed the plea, stipulating that the issue was a “policy matter” that is “for Parliament to decide … not the court.”

Population control policies in India have long served as a flashpoint between Hindu-nationalist advocates and Muslims and the poor who have viewed such policies with suspicion. Population control initiatives are widely viewed in India as indirect attempts to lower the population of Indian Muslims and of poor and rural Indians. Both groups tend to have larger families on average. Meanwhile, most Hindu families already average at two children or less.

According to the National Family Health Survey, the total fertility rate  among Indian Muslims for 2015-2016 was 2.62 children per woman of reproductive age while the rate among Hindus was 2.13. This represents a significant drop from the fertility rates observed for both demographic groups only 10 years prior when the rate was 3.40 among Indian Muslims and 2.59 among Hindus.

With the fertility of Indian Hindus at or close to replacement fertility, some Hindu-nationalist politicians have clamored for Hindu couples to boost their fertility in order to increase the number of Hindu followers compared to other religious groups in the country. In 2015, Sakshi Maharaj, a BJP MP particularly well-known for making controversial remarks –urged that “every Hindu woman must produce at least four children to protect the Hindu religion.”

Population control policies in India are often rooted in anti-Muslim animosity, often displayed by certain Hindu-nationalist partisans. Earlier this year, Union Minister of State and BJP MP Giriraj Singh commented that “The growing population of the country, especially Muslims, is a threat to the social fabric, social harmony, and development of the country.”

Recently, BJP MP Vijay Pal Singh Tomar said on the floor of Parliament that population growth in India needed to be curbed part and parcel because children were being born in the name of “Allah” and “Bhagwan” – the latter term referring to a controversial anti-Hindu mystic preacher.

Population control policies have a long history in India. In the late 1950’s, India became the first country in the modern era to implement policies directly targeted at reducing the country’s population growth rate. In the late 1970’s, approximately 8 million Indian citizens (mostly men) were forcibly sterilized in a single year by the Government under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi during the so-called Emergency, a period in India’s history when the government suspended civil liberties and imprisoned political rivals under a declaration of a state of emergency.

In India, population control policies have long enjoyed public support from a significant subset of the citizenry. While Malthusian ideology no longer prevails in most of the world, it continues to enjoy wide acceptance in India. So the belief that the country is overpopulated and in need of population control is not uncommon.

Despite Malthusian alarmism espoused by certain BJP politicians and voters, however, the rate of population growth in India has slowed considerably in recent decades. The UN pro-JECTS that India’s population will peak at 1.68 billion in 2060, and will then begin to contract.

In fact, the fertility rate in India has been plummeting for more than half a century. India’s total fertility rate in the early 1960’s stood at 5.89 births per 1,000 women of reproductive age.[2] Projections indicate that the rate will fall to 2.28 this year.[3] Similarly, official Government statistics estimated an all-India rate of only 2.3 in 2013.[4]

In urban areas, and in several states, India’s fertility rate has fallen below the replacement level. According to official government statistics, the total fertility rate in urban areas fell to 1.8 children per woman of reproductive age in 2013.[5] The fertility rate for India overall sits only slightly higher than the replacement rate. Official estimates indicate that the fertility rate necessary to meet the replacement level in India will be 2.26 for the years 2015-2020.6]

Since 1950, India’s population has more than tripled; it is projected to reach 1.35 billion in 2018.[7] Yet, over that same time period, the birth rate has fallen by an estimated 58 percent. India’s TFR has markedly declined as well.[8]

India’s population growth does not appear to have had a negative effect on the country’s development. From 1991 to 2015, India added some 420 million people to its population, roughly the equivalent of the 2015 populations of the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom combined.

Despite this increase, the percentage of the population living with hunger in India has declined significantly. According to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization, the prevalence of undernourishment in India fell by nearly 40 percent between 1991 and 2015.[9] Food in India has also become more affordable. According to the UN’s food price index, India’s index fell by nearly 5 percent between 2000 and 2014.[10]

Access to safe drinking water has also improved in India. According to World Health Organization data, the percentage of the population with access to safely managed drinking water has increased by 69 percent since the year 2000 in rural areas of the country.[11]

Moreover, India’s population growth does not appear to have hampered economic growth. And according to the World Bank, per capita income has more than tripled since 1990.

This has been your weekly briefing from the Population Research Institute. Be sure to check our website for the important data and references at pop.org.

 

[1] United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2017). World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Id.

[4] Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner. Compendium of India’s Fertility and Mortality Indicators, 1971-2013, Table 3. Sample Registration System. http://www.censusindia.gov.in/2011-Common/Sample_Registration_System.html (last updated: Jul. 4, 2018).

[5] Ibid.

[6] UNDESA (2017), supra note 1.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Id.

[9] Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Statistics Division (2018). FAOSTAT: Suite of Food Security Indicators (last updated: May 2, 2018).

[10] FAO (2015). Food Security Indicators (3rd release: Oct. 12, 2015).

[11] World Health Organization (WHO). Basic and safely managed drinking water services: data by country. Global Health Observatory (last updated: Nov. 30, 2017).

[12] World Bank. Unemployment, total (% of total labor force) (modeled ILO estimate); Unemployment, total (% of total labor force) (national estimate). World Development Indicators (last updated: Aug. 28, 2018).

[13] World Bank. GNI per capita (constant 2010 US$); GDP per capita (constant 2010 US$). World Development Indicators (last updated: Aug. 28, 2018).

 

Second Segment:

Chinese Provincial Government Calls for an End to Birth Restrictions

The PRC’s Planned Birth Policy continues its shift towards more births

 

The provincial government in Shaanxi, a province in north-central China, has published a report that calls for an abolishment of birth limits under China’s planned birth policy.

Currently, China’s two-child policy prohibits couples from having more than two children. In many provinces, couples are allowed a third child only in narrowly-crafted special circumstances that often require government approval, such as when a child has a severe disability or in second marriages. Couples who exceed their government-mandated birth quota can be subjected to steep fines significantly larger than their annual household income.

On June 29, the Shaanxi Provincial Bureau of Statistics released a report titled “Development Report of Population Development in Shaanxi Province 2017” which calls for family planning policies to be abolished “when the time is right.” The report also encourages that policies be introduced to increase the birth rate, including offering subsidies to women who have another child, policies to protect women’s employment security, increasing the availability of maternal and child health services, and improving health systems and early childhood education infrastructure.

The Shaanxi report has further added to growing speculation over the past several months that the Chinese central government may soon be preparing to scrap its nearly four-decades-old planned birth policy, perhaps as early as later this year.

According to Population Research Institute (PRI) President Steven Mosher, the move by the Shaanxi provincial government may indicate that policy changes from the central government to increase the birth rate could be forthcoming. “Ambitious provincial leaders often try and anticipate changes in national policy by getting ‘one step ahead’ of Beijing,” Mosher says, “It’s a dangerous game, but it can lead to national recognition as a ‘model province’ and promotion for the provincial Communist Party secretary. This report, along with other signs, shows that the Chinese state is moving decisively in the direction of urging higher birth rates.”

Bloomberg article earlier this year reported that sources had revealed that China’s State Council, the cabinet of the Chinese Government, had commissioned a study on the social impact of removing all birth limits. According to Bloomberg, the study was commissioned at the behest of China Premier Li Keqiang, the second highest ranking official in the Chinese Communist Party. The study was commissioned by Li after receiving the results from a prior study in April which found “limited” benefits to abolishing birth limits.

Moreover, the sources had conveyed that the State Council was making preparations to change the country’s planned birth policy. Among the policy proposals being discussed by officials, according to the Bloomberg piece, is an “independent fertility” policy which would abolish all birth limits and allow couples to freely choose the number of children they want to have.

For nearly four decades, the Chinese Government has imposed stringent birth limits, restricting couples to no more than one or two children, in a radical attempt to drastically reduce the country’s birth rate. Under China’s one-child and two-child policies, millions of women were punished with crushing fines and forced to submit to abortion, sterilization, or IUD insertion if they were found to have exceeded their government-allocated birth quota. The Chinese Government claims that its one-child policy prevented over 400 million births.

But now, after more than 20 years of below replacement fertility, Chinese society is beginning to feel the demographic consequences of the Government’s planned birth policies.

Since 1990, the fertility rate in China has been below the replacement rate, the rate necessary to prevent population decline. As a result, China’s population structure has transitioned. According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics’ annual 1% survey, the working-age population in China has decreased consistently every year since 2011. At the same time, the country faces the prospect of rapid population aging in the coming years. The Chinese Government projects 25% of the country’s population will be 60 or older by 2030, up from only 13% in 2010.

Chinese officials, concerned that current demographic trends threaten to undercut economic growth and the credibility of the Communist Party, are now increasingly looking for ways to boost the birth rate. In an effort to mitigate the burden of population aging, the Chinese Government in 2016 abandoned its one-child policy, opting instead for a two-child policy which now allows all legally married couples to have a second child, but no more.

However, the two-child policy has not produced the baby boom that Communist Party leaders had hoped for. While the number of births in 2016 increased by 8% over 2015, the number of births in China sagged the following year, with 630,000 fewer births last year than in 2016.

Some Chinese officials and demographers are now calling for the government to remove all birth limits—a sharp turn-around from only a few years ago when only officials in the central government were allowed to discuss the national planned birth policy.

In March, a deputy in the National People’s Congress (NPC), the Chinese Government’s rubber-stamp congress, put forth a proposal for the government to transition from a two-child policy to a three-child policy. Zhu Liyu, the NPC deputy proposing the measure, was quoted at the time by Sina Finance saying, “If we do not adjust the population policy as soon as possible and increase the population, China will become a country with low fertility levels. Therefore, it is recommended that the [two-child policy be] fully liberalized [and changed to a] three-child policy as soon as possible.” Liyu went on to say that if the country’s birth decline did not reverse under a three-child policy, the government should consider ending family planning policies altogether.

In June, an article that appeared in thepaper.cn reported that the vice dean of the Institute of International Strategic Studies at the Central Party School of the Communist Party, Zhou Tianyong, had authored an article that was published in a magazine issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, calling for the government to abolish the planned birth policy and remove all birth limits on Chinese couples. The Central Party School is the Chinese Government’s institution of higher education for training officials for civil service and for leadership positions in the Communist Party.

“We should urgently and completely allow women to freely have children and cancel the one-child birthing system,” thepaper.cn quoted Zhou from his article, “Family planning personnel should receive settlement from the government, the social support fees should be abolished, and past-due social support payments should not be collected.”

Even a former official who once headed a division of the National Family Planning Commission, the State Council agency once responsible for implementing the one-child policy, has come out publicly in favor of removing the birth limits, telling Bloomberg in an interview that the removal of birth limits is already past due but “it’s better than never.”

Over the past year, the Chinese Government has taken steps to distance itself from the family planning policies of the past. In March, the National Health and Family Planning Commission, the executive agency long responsible for implementing the one-child policy, was reorganized as the National Health Commission. The move represents the first time since 1956 that no executive agency in the State Council bears the phrase “family planning” or “birth planning” in its name. And for the first time in nearly 30 years, the party work report from the 2017 National Congress of the Communist Party failed to mention the term “birth control.” In his address to the National Congress last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping also did not make the customary reference to “family planning.”

Reports have also indicated that local government officials in some parts of China may have eased off enforcing the two-child policy. According to an article from ETtoday, cadres in Chenzhou, Jiangxi Province, no longer assess fines for over-quota births. One Henan agricultural worker whose wife recently gave birth to a third child without sanction told ETtoday, “In a few villages around us, there are many cases in which a family has three or four children. I have hardly heard of a fine.”

In the far northern province of Heilongjiang where fertility rates are low, the provincial-level government in 2016 even changed its family planning regulations to allow couples living in the province’s border districts to have a third child, representing the first time since the one-child policy was introduced that all ethnic Han Chinese in a given territory are legally permitted to have a third child.

Still, couples who exceed their two-child quota in many provinces are still technically subject to strict fines and penalties and reports have indicated that the policy continues to be enforced to this day in much of the country.

Population Research Institute investigators found evidence last year that the two-child policy was still being rigorously enforced in some parts of China. An investigation by John Sudworth of the BBC in 2016 found that couples under the two-child policy continued to be subjected to coercive home visits and threats of mandatory abortion if discovered with an out-of-quota child.

Other family planning restrictions remain enforced in parts of China. In Yunnan province, for instance, villages are still required to meet annual government-mandated sterilization quotas and local officials maintain lists of “eligible” candidates for sterilization.

Steep fines for past violations of the one-child policy also continue to be levied on couples under the two-child policy. According to ETtoday, 221 people in Luoyang, Hunan Province were recently placed on a list of “unworthy enforcers” after failing to pay the social support fees for over-quota births. And in several provinces, couples who exceed their birth quota can still be punished with loss of employment, mandatory abortion, wage garnishment, and fines.

 

Third Segment

Victory in Argentina: How We Defeated the International Abortion Lobby and Protected the Right to Life

 

On August 9, 2018, pro-lifers in Argentina won a great victory, not just for Argentinians, but for the entire world. That country’s Senate voted down a bill to legalize abortion.

It was a close run. The bill had already passed the Argentinian lower house, called the Chamber of Deputies, and seemed unstoppable. Just two months ago, it did not seem possible to stop the bill in the Senate. But over the last few weeks pro-lifers organized, demonstrated, and began to put real pressure on their elected representatives.  The result was a victory for the right to life for the unborn child.

The Chamber of Deputies approved the pro-abortion bill on June 23, after a long day of fractious debate. Three lawmakers who had earlier said they would vote against abortion strangely changed their minds at the last minute.  They instead voted to legalize the death of unborn babies.

Many in Argentina were outraged by this betrayal of the country’s longstanding pro-life principles. Argentine politicians were quickly to learn just how dangerous it can be to their political careers when they bring upon themselves the wrath of the voters.

In order to become law, both chambers of the Argentinian parliament must approve it. So the battle for life, though lost in the House, could still be won in the Chamber of Senators.

The Argentinian parliament, with its upper and lower houses, is modeled upon the American Congress. Much like the U.S. House of Representatives, the number of lawmakers representing each province in the Argentinian Chamber of Deputies are elected according to number of people living in each territory. For example, the Province of Buenos Aires has 35 representatives while Tucumán, one of the smallest in the country, has only 9. In contrast, much like the U.S. Senate, each Argentinian province has the same number of senators. Thus, Buenos Aires and Tucumán have 3 senators each.

With the battle moving to the Chamber of Senators, pro-lifers were faced with a challenge: to convince a majority of the 72 senators to reject the bill. At the outset, this appeared to be nearly impossible.  But then something never before seen in Argentina began to develop: a mass movement in favor of Life.

A lawyer, Martín Zeballos, coined a phrase in an article he wrote for the newspaper Clarín.  “Argentina had a sleeping giant that has awoken,” Zeballos wrote, “and he has a sky-blue neckerchief.” Zeballos was referring to the sky-blue neckerchief that has become the symbol of those who defend the right to life. This is a symbol which recalls the sky-blue of Argentinian flag, and so the love of the unborn became synonymous with love of country.

On the other hand, pro-abortion activists wear green neckerchiefs. This color–the color of a dollar bill–quickly became identified with the international financial pressure on Argentina to legalize abortion. This “color blindness” turned out to be a major strategic blunder on the part of the pro-aborts.

Pro-lifers also won the messaging campaign, adopting a great slogan: “Let us save 2 lives.” This referred to saving both the child’s life and the mother’s, and helped to rally support to the pro-life cause.

Pro-lifers also suddenly woke up to the fact that they needed to become politically active. They realized that their senators were very attentive to pressure from the voters, and were acutely aware of the number of votes they need to get re-elected.

Originally, many pro-lifers thought that convincing lawmakers that abortion is a moral evil or medically unnecessary was the path to victory. That is, they thought that they needed to argue that life begins at conception and that laws must protect the right to life as a matter of science and morality.

More than 400 lawyers, doctors, biologists and even journalists testified before Congress in defense of the right to life in the various committees where the abortion bill was being considered. The lawmakers were unmoved. It soon became evident to pro-lifers that the legislators were not basing their vote on moral or scientific considerations, but solely on political considerations.

The sleeping giant had awoken. Pro-lifers began to visit their senators and say bluntly: ‘If you vote for abortion, I will not vote for you in the next election.’ This strategy payed immediate dividends, especially since the next elections are in 2019. Those lawmakers who wanted to be re-elected again as senators began to pay attention to the concerns of pro-lifers.  And pro-lifers, for their part, began to realize that political activism, previously nonexistent among pro-lifers, can make a real difference.

One by one, senators began expressing their “concern” that the abortion bill was “poorly drafted” and stating that they would be voting against it. The wave of political momentum to keep abortion illegal in Argentina started growing. By the time of the vote, even the country’s most important newspapers, Clarín and La Nación, recognized that the abortion bill would be defeated.

The miracle was the result of a lot of pro-life work, a lot of mobilization from normal, everyday people. But more than anything, it was the result of citizens realizing the power they have to act in a democratic society. Argentinian pro-lifers realized that this power needs to be exercised not through timid pleas, but by demanding that rights be respected.

In the weeks leading up to the vote, the streets were no longer a place for left-wing activists. But rather, pro-lifers occupied this space, to civilly demand that there can be no law to legalize abortion in Argentina. And pro-lifers achieved their goal.

After the hard defeat in the Irish abortion referendum, Argentina has now changed the axis of the abortion debate. Argentina has provided Latin America and the world with a good example of how people can stop the global anti-life tsunami. Pro-lifers can stop anti-life legislation even with only a small amount of funding, so long as they advance their cause with great passion and a clear focus.

The pro-life Argentine “sleeping giant” will stay awake and active. There are many people now who are engaged in the important political battles going forward. Groups that were formed to lobby against the abortion bill are already studying how to change other anti-life laws.

The next challenge for pro-lifers will be a bill that will revise the Criminal Code, which will be voted on soon. But they will be talking to politicians who will listen.  And they will be telling them: “We will be paying attention to how you’ll be voting on this bill, and we ourselves will only vote for politicians who will say not only promise to defend life, but actually fullfill their promises.”

The Argentinian political landscape has changed forever. Pro-life issues will no longer be a minor issue. And soon we will see more and more pro-life senators and deputies. Some will be pro-life as a matter of principal.  Others will be pro-life out of political prudence. But both of these groups will vote the right way. Because pro-lifers will be watching.

This victory sends very clear message to the rest of Latin America. Pro-life movements in other Latin American countries were closely following the situation in Argentina in solidarity with Argentine pro-lifers. And now, they know what pro-life people are able to accomplish when they set their minds to it.

Population Research Institute (PRI) has played an active role throughout this process of organizing and encouraging the Argentinian pro-life movement. PRI’s offices in Latin America and Europe, and particularly PRI’s newest division, RELEASE, have been read and studied by those involved in the pro-life battle in Argentina. Many groups and people in Argentina found our advice and analysis key to building the way for this successful campaign.

PRI is now committed to advancing this winning model elsewhere.  For this great victory in Argentina must breathe new life into all those who defend life and family. Pro-lifers should be encouraged to raise their voices. Do not be afraid of those who want to impose the culture of political correctness. Fight back.

The Argentine nation has won a great victory for life and for the family. And we at PRI were proud to have played a part. Thank you, Argentina.

____________________________

The author, Dr. Carlos Beltramo is the Director of PRI’s European Office and a native of Argentina.

 

 

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