With its infamous one-child policy, China discouraged births in the country for more than 30 years. Now, the Wall Street Journal reports, the country is facing a low (and declining) fertility rate and finding it difficult to suddenly encourage the births of more, not fewer, babies.
Though China’s one-child policy ended in 2016, it has had lasting effects. Several cultural and societal factors could be playing a role in the declining fertility rate, including delayed marriages and fewer women of childbearing age.
Another problem is that many women have already had multiple abortions, which can affect fertility and make it difficult to bear a child later on. China has a higher infertility rate than the rest of the world (18% compared with a global standard of 15% of couples of reproductive age, according to Peking University researchers), which some attribute to its aging population, and others pin on the prevalence of abortions.
To encourage population growth, China is promoting services for couples hoping to conceive, including in vitro fertilization, and even closing some abortion clinics. The Wall Street Journal reports that “the number of family-planning centers, primarily used for abortions, sterilizations and insertions of intrauterine devices, has dwindled to 2,810 across China in 2020, less than 10% of the number in 2014.”
Although China’s reasoning for limiting abortions and encouraging births is practical, rather than principled, its push to replace its aging population will certainly be a good thing for couples and newborns.
Here in the United States, the fertility rate is also declining, a trend that Pew Research notes “likely reflects the lingering effects of the Great Recession, as well as longer-term demographic changes such as increased educational attainment among women and delays in marriage.” But the good news is that, although there is no federal push to shut down abortion clinics, abortion rates are also falling; in the past few years, abortion rates fell to their lowest level since Roe v. Wade.
Still, according to Worldometer, the global number of abortions performed in 2021 was more than 42.6 million, a number greater than post-birth deaths by any single cause, including COVID-19, cancer, AIDS, or car accidents. Since fertility rates across the globe are below replacement levels, i.e. more people are dying than being born, the BBC reports, 23 countries including Japan, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Thailand, and South Korea will see their populations cut to half their current size by the end of the century, with China’s cut nearly in half. While China struggles to restore birth rates, perhaps the rest of the globe can begin to see the lasting destructive effects of federally endorsed abortion.