Earlier this week, Vice President Joe Biden unnecessarily acknowledged and condoned communist China’s one-child-only policy in a speech to Chinese leaders while visiting the country to speak on U.S.–China relations.
Biden admitted he does not “second-guess” the horrific, decades-old policy, which often forces women to undergo unwanted abortions and sterilizations. His careless remarks singlehandedly compromised the U.S. position on human rights as it relates to population control. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R–OH) rightly called on the White House to issue a “clarification or correction.” A Biden spokesperson has since issued a statement saying he finds the policy “repugnant.”
Ironically, Biden has some history of opposing unethical abortion practices similar to the one-child policy, including a 1981 amendment that bears his name, which states that U.S. funds may not be used for biomedical research related to abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Until 2009, the Kemp–Kasten Amendment denied federal funding to organizations or programs that supported any kind of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization. Unfortunately, after a long legislative battle, the Obama Administration restored funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which supports Chinese family planning initiatives in certain parts of the country and claims it plays no role in coercive practices.
And while “coercive” abortion is technically illegal in China, it’s clear that abuses continue. The annual State Department country report on human rights, published this past April, says regarding China and its one-child policy:
…intense pressure to meet birth limitation targets set by government regulations resulted in instances of local family-planning officials using physical coercion to meet government goals. Such practices included the mandatory use of birth control and the abortion of unauthorized pregnancies. In the case of families that already had two children, one parent was often pressured to undergo sterilization.
By resuming U.S. funding to the UNFPA, the United States undoubtedly signaled reduced concern about these fundamental abuses of human rights. Vice President Biden’s remarks can only reinforce that message.
It’s no surprise that the U.N. Human Rights Council fails to combat the issues in China. Its record is dismal, despite the fact that China is listed as one of the worst violators of human rights worldwide. As Heritage’s Brett Shaeffer writes:
China, Cuba, Iran, and North Korea have submitted false reports to the council, laughably affirming their commitment to fundamental human rights and freedoms. A majority of the council accepted these patently dishonest reports at face value and approved them.
Surely the Vice President is not unaware of the history of China’s coercive program, when abuses have been documented in detail in the West. For example, the late John Aird was the head of the China branch of the U.S. Census Bureau and fought vehemently against the policy. As Aird noted about the policy two decades ago, “The Chinese program remains highly coercive not because of local deviations from central policies but as a direct, inevitable, and intentional consequence of those policies.”
The world needs more defenders of international human rights with Aird’s conviction. The Chinese government estimates that some 400 million births have been prevented since the policy was implemented 30 years ago. No one knows how many of those 400 million human beings were forcibly eliminated, but a Public Radio International story last year reported that “Most middle-aged women have been sterilized, and nearly everyone [in China] knows someone that has had a forced abortion.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, China’s fertility levels are well below replacement levels—especially for girls, who are disproportionately selected for elimination due to China’s one-child policy and the cultural preference for boys. The incidence of “gendercide” worldwide is among the most compelling human rights challenges of our time. As Heritage’s Kim Holmes writes:
The best way to promote human rights as we understand them…is through a properly balanced political system that ensures equal justice and limits the state’s role to only what is necessary to secure our rights. It is by standing up for victims whose natural rights are violated around the world and assisting them when we can, and by pointing out other states’ failings to live up to their treaty commitments. It is by remaining the beacon of liberty for people everywhere—that “shining city on the hill” that Ronald Reagan described as he confronted the evils of Communist states.
If Vice President Biden had thought harder on his comment before making it, he would have concluded that Chinese citizens’ natural rights are undoubtedly being violated through the one-child policy. And that is most certainly something the United States should second-guess.