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Tuesday, April 24, 2001, updated at 21:04(GMT+8)

China Legislates Against Gender-Based Abortion

China's first draft law on birth control tabled before the legislature Tuesday upholds the existing birth control policies and also prohibits gender-based abortions.

The draft law also stipulates that social charges shall be levied on those who give birth to more children than the government controlled birth quota.

Zhang Weiqing, minister in charge of the State Family Planning Commission, explained the draft law to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

The draft says that the State encourages each couple to give birth to only one child and those who meet the legal conditions may have a second child.

The "legal conditions" are usually already in place promulgated by provincial level legislative bodies, the minister said.

He noted that upholding the existing birth control policies by law is necessary, because it is "very sensitive, and may cause chaos in people's minds if handled improperly."

Zhang acknowledged that China is still a developing country with a social security framework yet to be installed, and the traditional concept of having more children remains influential in the future.

"That is why a law on population and family planning is indispensable," he said.

"Such a law is also needed to tackle the problem of power abuse by birth control enforcers who are active in extracting fees but inadequate in management," he said.

The social charges provided for by the draft law will not serve as a permit for exceeding the birth quota, but as compensation for the social input added for bringing up the child, Zhang added.

Detailed methods on the levy will be formulated by the State Council.

Zhang pointed out that some medical institutions and personnel have used ultrasonic machines and other methods to detect the gender of fetuses and have conducted abortions based on gender preferences of the parents, which "has seriously impaired the gender balance of the population."

Thus, "any identification of the gender of a fetus with no medical purpose and abortions based on gender preferences shall be strictly prohibited," the draft law said.

The draft law also provides that couples are entitled to the right for government sponsored birth control techniques and services.

China started to practice family planning as a fundamental state policy in the late 1970s, and the rapid increase of population has been effectively contained.

According to a recent population census, China has effectively put rapid population growth under control with the current population standing at 1,295.33 million. And the average annual growth rate over the past 10 years was 1.07 percent, 0.4 percentage point down from the end of 1980s.

China's population growth is now characterized as "low birth rate, low mortality rate and low growth rate," which is identical to developed nations, Zhang said.

"The family planning policy in the past two decades has served the objective of promoting China's overall strength and social progress, and the improvement of people's living standards," he said.

In This Section

China's first draft law on birth control tabled before the legislature Tuesday upholds the existing birth control policies and also prohibits gender-based abortions.

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