Fam­ily pol­icy is chang­ing but not end­ing

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COVERSTORY -

Afarewell to the fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy? Not so fast. More than 30 years af­ter China is­sued its unique pol­icy lim­it­ing most cou­ples to just one child, along came Novem­ber 2013 and a new, re­laxed rule al­low­ing cou­ples to have a sec­ond baby if one of the par­ents is an only child.

As an only child born in the 1980s who is part of China’s first gen­er­a­tion un­der the old rule, I have al­ways been fas­ci­nated by even the slight­est pol­icy changes.

The seeds of that fas­ci­na­tion sprouted in my child­hood when I vis­ited my un­cle in the coun­try­side.

The ubiq­ui­tous white-ink slo­gans plas­tered around the vil­lage read some­thing like this: “Raise fewer ba­bies but more pig­gies”, and (worse) “Houses top­pled, cows con­fis­cated, if abor­tion de­mand re­jected.”

When I got into mid­dle school, I was told by my mother that I could have two chil­dren in the fu­ture, pro­vided the man I mar­ried hap­pened to be an only child like me.

Af­ter grad­u­a­tion from col­lege, I en­tered jour­nal­ism, and I now cover health and pop­u­la­tion is­sues. It’s on my daily work­ing list to closely fol­low the “fine-tun­ing” of the birth rule, which the coun­try’s top lead­er­ship said at the start would last for a gen­er­a­tion, or 30 years.

Did they keep the prom­ise? I’ve been told yes.

Of course, a cou­ple may choose to limit them­selves to just one child — and that ap­pears to be the trend in the era of eco­nomic growth and ur­ban­iza­tion. But at least a limit of one will not be forced by govern­ment pol­icy in most cases.

Start­ing in the 1990s, the ini­tial pol­icy was re­laxed, and cou­ples were al­lowed to have a sec­ond baby if each par­ent was an only child. In Novem­ber, the rule was fur­ther re­laxed so that just one par­ent need be in that cat­e­gory. The new rule will go into ef­fect next year.

Here I sigh deeply. In my case it’s my own fault if I can’t have two ba­bies.

I am in my early 30s, and I have no child. Seem­ingly, I must rush to put aside ev­ery­thing else to achieve two preg­nan­cies while I am yet in my re­pro­duc­tive prime.

Oth­er­wise, I will face risks as an “old” ex­pec­tant mother — the pos­si­bil­ity of pre­ma­ture de­liv­ery, pla­cen­tal abrup­tion or easy mis­car­riage.

Af­ter a twist of mind, I de­cided to have just one child, but I still ap­pre­ci­ate the pol­icy change.

To my way of think­ing, fam­ily plan­ning should al­ways be done by and within fam­i­lies.

Now, we are told, more cou­ples can have two. But you are still a vi­o­la­tor if you have three. So the pol­icy doesn’t stop. It’s just chang­ing — for the bet­ter, of course — but not end­ing. Maybe more peo­ple will tend to have small fam­i­lies. But the choice should be up to them, rather than im­posed by any govern­ment rules. Con­tact the writer at shan­juan@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

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