Exploring ‘Glorious Motherhood’ in Chinese Abortion Law and Policy
- 520 Downloads
Currently, abortion can be lawfully performed in China at any gestational stage for a wide range of social and medical reasons. I critically explore the Chinese regulatory model of abortion in order to examine its practical effects on women. Although I focus on the post-Maoist abortion law, I also analyse the imperial Confucianism-dominated regulation and the Maoist ban on abortion in order to scrutinise the emergence of the notion of ‘glorious motherhood’. By examining how ‘glorious motherhood’ is constructed and reinforced in the Chinese family planning context, I argue that the post-Maoist government intentionally made abortion ‘law in the books’ unrestrictive in order to impose its control over female fertility. As a result of this, women are persuaded and even forced to lead a ‘glorious’ maternal life, which means sacrificing themselves for the purpose of achieving the state’s Malthusian and eugenic demographic goals. Furthermore, I argue that, in addition to exacerbating gender oppression, abortion law’s embrace of the idea of ‘glorious motherhood’ also produces ‘group oppression’ of unmarried women and working-class women.
KeywordsAbortion law Family planning Glorious motherhood Politicisation Population policy State
Many thanks are owed to Julie McCandless who provided many helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article, and the two anonymous peer referees at Feminist Legal Studies for their insightful contributions in improving the piece. This study was funded by China’s Ministry of Education Project in Humanities and Social Sciences (Project No. 13YJC820002), the Philosophy and Social Science Planning Funding Project of Hunan Province (Project No. 14YBA104). The Scientific Research Foundation for the Returned Overseas Chinese Scholars in China also supported this work.
- Aird, John. 1991. Slaughter of the innocents: Coercive birth control in China. Washington: American Enterprise Institute Press.Google Scholar
- Butler, Judith. 1990. Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- CCP. 1980. Guanyu kongzhi renkouzengchang wenti gongkaishu [The question of controlling the increase in the national population] Xinhua News, 25 September. http://news.xinhuanet.com/ziliao/2005-02/04/content_2547034.htm. Accessed 5 April 2015.
- Chen, Yingyao, Xu Qian, Zhiliu Tang, Jianwen Cao, Xiayan Huang, Hu Fangfang, Qian Wang, Jun Lv, and Xianghua Ying. 2004. Woguo chanqiansaichafuwu xianzhuang he cunzai de guanjianwenti [The status and key issues of prenatal genetic diagnosis in China]. China Health Quality Management 50: 11–13.Google Scholar
- Duan, Hongqing. 2007. Zhongguo Jihuashengyu diyian [The first family planning case in China] China Value, 10 January. http://www.chinavalue.net/media/Article.aspx?ArticleId=10072&PageId=1.cn. Accessed 4 April 2015.
- Fineman, Martha. 1995. The neutered mother, the sexual family and other twentieth century tragedies. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Fineman, Martha. 2004. The autonomy myth: A theory of dependency. London: The New Press.Google Scholar
- Finnis, John. 1973. The rights and wrongs of abortion. Philosophy and Public Affairs 2: 117–145.Google Scholar
- Fletcher, Ruth. 2005. Reproducing irishness: Race, gender, and abortion law. Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 17: 365–404.Google Scholar
- Guo, Sufang, Fengmin Zhao, and Tong Zhang. 2006. Woguo yulingrenmin biyuntaoshiyongqingkuang jiqi yingxiangyingsu [The use of condoms among married people and the reasons for this]. Chinese Journal of Public Health 22: 1–8.Google Scholar
- Guo, Xiaoling. 2012. Weihuimama de shehuizhichi xitongfenxi [An analysis of social support for unmarried mothers]. Journal of Changchun University of Science and Technology (Social Sciences Edition) 25: 67–71.Google Scholar
- He, Xia. 2011. Yuenan guanfang cheng zhongguo cheng yuenan Beiguai funü zuida quxiaoguo [The government of Vietnam announces that China has become the biggest destination for trafficking Vietnamese women]. Huanqiu News, 5 June. http://world.huanqiu.com/roll/2010-02/723337.html. Accessed 11 March 2015.
- Hou, Yafei. 2004. Guoce dao guofa: Zhongguojihuashengyulichenghuigu [From national policy to national legislation: A review of Chinese family planning]. Expanding Horizons 3: 8–29.Google Scholar
- Huang, Yina, Mingqing Zhang, and Jianping Jiang. 2012. Daxuesheng hunqianxingxingwei he xingtaidu diaocha [A survey on premarital sex among college students and their perspectives]. The Chinese Journal of Human Sexuality 21: 19–23.Google Scholar
- Hull, Natalie, and Peter Hoffer. 2001. Roe v Wade. Kansas: University Press of Kansas.Google Scholar
- Jackson, Emily. 2001. Regulating reproduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Kitagawa, Zentaro. 2006. Development of comparative law in East Asia. In The Oxford handbook of comparative law, ed. Mathias Reimann, and Reinhard Zimmermann, 220–269. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Ko, Dorothy, and Wang Zheng. 2007. Translating feminisms in China. Australia: Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Lee, Ellie (ed.). 1998. Abortion law and politics today. London: MacMillan Press.Google Scholar
- Lee, Ellie. 2003. Abortion, motherhood and mental health. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
- Li, Yanhong, and Fenghua Liu. 2004. Woguo qingnian dui hunqianxingxingweide shehuitaidu fenxi [Attitudes towards premarital sex among people aged 16–35]. Journal of Nanjing College Population Program Management 20: 23–28.Google Scholar
- Lim, Louisa. 2004. China fears bachelor future. BBC News, 5 April. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/3601281.stm. Accessed 11 March 2015.
- Liu, Fuyang. 2000. Yaowuliuchan yu xigongshuliuchan de bijiao [A comparative analysis of medical abortion and surgical abortion in China]. Chinese Journal of Practical Gynecology and Obstetrics 16: 594–597.Google Scholar
- May, Reinhard. 1985. Law and society East and West: Dharma, Li, and Nomos—their contribution to law and to life. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner.Google Scholar
- Mungello, David. 2008. Drowning girls in China: Female infanticide since 1650. Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
- National Bureau of Statistics. 1954. The first national census statistics.Google Scholar
- National Bureau of Statistics. 1964. The second national census statistics.Google Scholar
- National Bureau of Statistics. 1982. The third national census statistics.Google Scholar
- National Family Panning Research Institute. 2014. The family planning services statistics 2013. http://www.moh.gov.cn/zhuzhan/zsylxdw. Accessed 2 March 2015.
- National Health and Family Planning Commission. 2014. China health year book 2013. http://epub.cnki.net. Accessed 14 March 2015.
- Nie, Jing-bao. 2004. Feminist bioethics and the language of human rights in Chinese context. In Linking visions, ed. Rosemarie Tong, Anne Donchin, and Susan Dodds, 73–88. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
- Nie, Jing-bao. 2005. Behind the silence. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
- Ma, Shu. 2012. Woguo nvxingzhuyi faxueyanjiu de huigu yu zhangwang [The review and prospect of Chinese feminist legal studies]. Hebei Law Science 30: 99–106.Google Scholar
- Peng, Peiyun (ed.). 1997. Zhongguo jihua shengyu [China family planning compendium]. Beijing: China Population Press.Google Scholar
- Pu, Qing. 2013. Shaonv chanzihou jingkong shazi [Two teenagers murdered newborns]. Sohu News, 19 March. http://roll.sohu.com/n369391118.shtml. Accessed 1 April 2015.
- Qu, Zeren. 2005. Chusheng xingbiebi shitiao: Lunli, falv he shehui yinsu [The unbalanced sex ratio of newborns: Ethical, legal and social issues]. Medicine and Philosophy 26: 24–30.Google Scholar
- Roberts, Dorothy. 1996. Race and the new reproduction. Hastings Law Journal 47: 935–949.Google Scholar
- Savulescu, Julian. 2006. Sex selection: The case for. In Bioethics: An anthology, ed. Helga Kuhse, and Peter Singer, 129–132. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Scharping, Thomas. 2003. Birth control in China 1949–2000: Population policy and demographic development. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Shan, Juan, and Yanfeng Qian. 2009. Abortion stats cause for concern. China Daily News. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2009-07/30/content_8489906.htm. Accessed 9 March 2015.
- Sheldon, Sally. 1997. Beyond control: Medical power and abortion law. London: Pluto.Google Scholar
- Thomson, Michael. 1998. Reproducing narrative. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing.Google Scholar
- Wang, Hui. 2008. Quzhengzhihua de zhengzhi: Duan20shiji de zhongjie yu 90 niandai [De-politicising China: Ending the 20th century and the 1990s]. Beijing: Sanlian Publishing.Google Scholar
- Wang, Mingyang. 2010. Zhongguo guoxue jingdian [Studies of ancient Chinese civilisations]. Beijing: Guji Press.Google Scholar
- Wang, Qiaochu, Xu Jian, and Ehua Zhao. 2013. Naotong wuzang lilunyanjiu yu linchuangyingyong [The study of wuzang theory and its clinical application]. Shanghai: Shanghai Kexuejishu Press.Google Scholar
- Warren, Mary. 1985. Gendercide: The implications of sex selection. New Jersey: Rowman & Allanheld.Google Scholar
- Wei, Xiangdong. 2008. Diaocha cheng qingshaonian xingxingwei riyi yanzhong [The serious problem of premarital sex and abortions among adolescent girls]. China News, 7 April. http://www.chinanews.com.cn/jk/kong/news/2008/04-07/1212923.shtml. Accessed 1 Aug 2015.
- Winikoff, Beverly, Sivin Irving, Coyaji Kurus, Cabezas Evelio, Bilian Xiao, Gu Sujuan, Du Ming-Kun, Krishna Usha, Andrea Eschen, and Charlotte Ellertson. 1997. Safety, efficacy, and acceptability of medical abortion in China, Cuba, and India: A comparative trial of mifepristone-misoprostol versus surgical abortion. International family Planning Perspectives 10: 73–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Wu, Changzhen. 2011. Hunyin he jicheng fa [Marriage and inheritance law]. Beijing: China University of Political Science and Law Press.Google Scholar
- Wu, Qingming, and Jian Zhou. 2011. Chushengquexian chanqiansaicha ji chanqianzhengduan yanjiujinzhang [Research progress on prenatal screening and prenatal diagnosis for birth defects]. Chinese Journal of Birth Health and Heredity 19: 129–131.Google Scholar
- Xi, Xuan, and Chunming Jin. 2006. Wenhua dageming jianshi [A history of the cultural revolution]. Beijing: Central Party History Publishing House.Google Scholar
- Xin, Hua. 2007. 85 % Chinese concerned by gender imbalance. China Daily News, 18 July. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2007-07/18/content_5438730.htm. Accessed 2 April 2015.
- Xing, Lifeng, and Caixia Liu. 2005. Tianli yu renyu: Chuantong rujiashiyezhongde nvxinghunyin shenghuo [Heavenly principles and human desires: Women’s married lives looked at through a traditional Confucian lens]. Wuhan: Wuhan University Press.Google Scholar
- Yang, Guangyu, and Zelin Xu. 1991. Jibenguoce: Liluntantao he jianyi [The state’s fundamental policies: Theory and suggestion]. Theoretical Exploration 12: 32–46.Google Scholar
- Yang, Shuang. 2012. Fury over ‘forced abortion’. Global Times, 14 June. http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/714855.shtml. Accessed on 26 April 2014.
- Zhan, Zhuan. 2013. Taobao jingxian duotaiyao [Abortion drugs sold on Taobao]. Guangming News, 16 August. http://tech.gmw.cn/2013-08/16/content_8624978.htm. Accessed on 15 July 2014.
- Zhang, Weixin. 2012. Zhongguo gudai fazhishi [The legal history of ancient China]. Shanghai: Shanghai Renmin Press.Google Scholar
- Zhao, Bingzhi, and Jianwei Zuo. 2005. Shilun Feifaxingyizui de Lifawanshan [A study of the crime of unlawfully performing family planning operation]. People’s Procuratorial Semimonthly 5: 12–17.Google Scholar
- Zhou, Yi, and Lan Xiang. 2015. Zhongguo meinian rengongliuchan 1,300wan [China has 13 million surgical abortions]. Wangyi News, 26 January. http://news.163.com/15/0126/05/AGS5I4SS00014AED.html. Accessed 4 April 2015.