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LIFE DIGEST: China targets boy-girl birth imbalance

WASHINGTON (BP)–China is seeking to compensate for its vast gender imbalance in the wake of two decades of a coercive population control policy that has resulted in the killing of many girls, unborn and born.

China’s National Population and Family Planning Commission reported Aug. 11 on a Care for Girls pilot project that provides financial incentives to rural families that give birth to and rear girls, according to China Daily. Government inducements for families with only daughters include insurance, educational fees, housing, employment, job training and welfare.

The goal is to reduce a birth ratio found in the 2000 census of 117 boys to 100 girls. The project’s organizers hope to reduce the ratio to a more normal 103-107 boys for every 100 girls. Offices to implement the project have been established in 24 provinces.

One province in east China has gone a step further in seeking to achieve balance. Zhejiang Province announced Aug. 12 it would strictly forbid sex-selection abortions. Zhejiang has a newborn ratio of 111 boys to 100 girls.

Though China Daily reported prenatal sex selection is illegal in China, sex selection abortions have been performed as one way of responding to a strict population control regime. Chinese policy basically limits urban families to one child and rural families to two children. Enforcement of the policy has differed by region.

The policy has resulted in coercive abortions and sterilizations, as well as the deaths of newborns and punishment for those who do not abide by it. Far more girls than boys have been killed, especially in rural areas where boys not only have been more valued but more needed for labor.

“Since the beginning of the one-child policy in 1981, well over a hundred million baby girls in China have died by abortion, infanticide, abandonment and neglect,” said Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher, according to LifeNews.com.

“Many were selectively aborted after ultrasound machines revealed their sex,” Mosher said. “Others were given lethal injections in the fontanel –- or soft spot -– as they descended in the birth canal.”

Mosher was a social scientist living in a Chinese village when the population control program began to be implemented. He reported on its coercive nature.

Zhang Weiqing, minister of China’s population commission, denied the population control policy was the reason for the gender imbalance. He cited South Korea, which has a birth ratio of 116 boys to 100 girls but no child restrictions, in defense of his contention, China Daily reported.

While the national ratio is 117 to 100 in China, the imbalance in some provinces is much worse. The Guangdong and Hainan provinces, as well as the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, have more than 130 male births to 100 female births, according to China Daily.

China is the world’s most populous country with about 1.3 billion people.

PRO-LIFE FIRST LADY? -– Recent comments by Laura Bush indicate the first lady may have changed her mind on the abortion issue.

When a reporter for The Washington Times asked Bush if she is pro-life, she responded, “Yes, I think abortion should be rare,” according to an Aug. 19 article in the newspaper.

To the question of whether she believes life begins at conception, she said “sure” and continued by saying she supports her husband’s position on abortion, according to the report. President Bush is pro-life.

The first lady did not indicate whether she believes the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion should be overturned.

After her husband was elected to the White House in 2000, Bush said in televised interviews she opposed reversal of Roe v. Wade, according to LifeNews.com. She said, however, the number of abortions should be reduced through such methods as the teaching of sexual abstinence.

The Times reporter asked Bush about abortion one week after she defended the president’s policy on stem cell research. His 2001 order prohibits federal funding of stem cell research that results in the destruction of human embryos.

John Kerry and John Edwards, the Democrats’ presidential and vice presidential candidates, respectively, have criticized the president’s policy. They support federal grants for embryonic stem cell research, as well as cloning of embryos for experimental purposes.

The extraction of embryonic stem cells, the body’s master cells that produce other cells and tissues, results in an embryo’s destruction.

PRO-LIFE, PRO-KERRY -– A majority of newly registered voters is pro-life but favors a pro-choice presidential candidate, according to a recent survey.

A July poll by Pace University of New York and Rock the Vote found 54 percent of voters registered since the 2000 presidential election oppose all or most abortions. The survey of first-time voters for president reported 13 percent believe all abortions should be prohibited while 41 percent say abortion should be outlawed, except in such cases as danger to the mother’s life, rape or incest.

The poll found 44 percent favor abortion rights, encompassing 21 percent who believe abortion should be “legal and generally available” and 23 percent who say it should be regulated but still legal “in many circumstances.”

Despite their pro-life leanings, first-time voters support Democratic Party presidential nominee John Kerry in a head-to-head match-up with President Bush. The survey showed they favored Kerry by 50 to 40 percent. When Ralph Nader was included in the poll, however, Bush received 44 percent of the support, Kerry 42 percent and Nader 6.

Bush has promoted pro-life policies in the White House, while Kerry has been a consistent advocate of abortion rights as a senator from Massachusetts.

The poll also found 39 percent of new voters consider themselves “evangelical or born-again Christians.”

The survey was based on interviews with 662 newly registered voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

GERMANY SEEKS BAN -– Great Britain’s recent legalization of cloning for research purposes has elicited an aggressive counterattack from German physicians and public officials.

Germany, the home of the Nazis’ eugenic madness in the 1930s and 1940s, has a comprehensive ban on human cloning in place, but many doctors and politicians are calling for further action by the German government. They want their government to lead the European Union to prohibit all human cloning, Cordis News reported Aug. 17.

Frank Ulrich Montgomery, chairman of the largest physicians association in Germany, endorsed an EU law to protect embryos, saying, “The indivisibility of human rights [is] being eroded under the blanket of research freedom.” Montgomery is chairman of the Marburger Bund.

Jurg-Dietrich Hoppe, president of the German Medical Association, said, “We can’t allow embryos to be harvested like raw materials.”

Officials of the ruling Social Democratic Party condemned the British action, along with its coalition partner, the Green Party; the Christian Democratic Union; and its sister party, the Christian Social Union.

“It’s up to the German politicians to work towards holding together the nations that have spoken out against cloning,” Green Party spokeswoman Christa Nickels said.

The Free Democrat Party is the only German political party to endorse Britain’s legalization of cloning.

A September report by Germany’s National Ethics Council may support research cloning, however. Spiros Simitis, chairman of the council, denied a decision has been made to endorse cloning, according to The Scientist.

“The ethics council is in the middle of the debate, and we hope to have an opinion by September, but it is still not clear what the outcome will be,” Simitis said. “There are very different positions within the council, but if the vote is in favor, then it will only be to allow therapeutic cloning under very restrictive conditions.”

EMBRYO MIX-UP -– A 3-year-old brother and sister in California are in the middle of a biotechnological nightmare that has left them with the same biological father and mother, but different birth mothers.

The San Jose Mercury News reported on the bizarre case Aug. 3 after one of the birth mothers, Susan Buchweitz, reached a $1 million settlement with the fertility specialist, Steven Katz, who implanted the wrong embryos in her womb.

In 2000, Katz, who practices at Fertility Medical Associates in San Francisco, implanted Buchweitz, now 52, with embryos intended for another couple, not the ones from the donor egg and sperm she had selected. The same day, Katz implanted embryos in a woman that were produced by her husband and an egg donor. In early 2001, Buchweitz, who is single, gave birth to a boy. Ten days later, the wife who received an implant the same day as Buchweitz gave birth to a girl. Unbeknownst to either, the children biologically were brother and sister.

The secret went unrevealed until 10 months later.

The husband and wife, whose identities have not been revealed, are seeking joint custody of Buchweitz’s son in a case in Santa Clara County Family Court. The boy’s biological father has visitation rights two days a week.

Buchweitz told the Mercury News she is plagued by fears she could lose her son. While she thinks the unnamed couple also are victims, Buchweitz said, “They don’t accept me as my son’s mother, and that hurts.”

Buchweitz recognizes her son will someday have questions about why his father lives elsewhere and his sister has a different mother.

“I’ve always wanted this child,” she said. “I don’t want him to think he’s an accident.”

SHIP STAYS HOME –- A Dutch court has refused, for now, to allow the notorious “abortion ship” Langenort to takes its deadly business into international waters, according to LifeNews.com.

The court in the Netherlands upheld Aug. 18 an order by the Dutch government preventing the Langenort from traveling beyond a 16-mile radius of Amsterdam. The purpose of the directive is to keep the ship near enough to a hospital in case a woman needs care for a botched abortion.

Women on Waves had sought a temporary lifting of the restriction in order to take a trip later in the month. The court has yet to rule on the organization’s lawsuit against the government’s 16-mile restriction. The government issued the distance order as a stipulation in allowing the ship to perform first-trimester abortions, LifeNews.com reported.