CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – The abolition of China’s 35-year-old one-child policy closes one of the darkest chapters in the country’s history. In the late 1970s, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), determined to boost economic growth, decided that population control was the answer. Millions of abortions, sterilizations, and infanticides later, its chickens are coming home to roost.
In raw numbers, the one-child policy’s human toll has been even greater than that of Mao’s Great Leap Forward, which caused a famine that killed around 36 million people from 1959 to 1961. And it exceeded that of the Cultural Revolution, in which large-scale political violence likely caused as many as another ten million deaths from 1966 to 1976.
As for the one-child policy, data released by China’s health ministry in 2013 indicate that from 1971 to 2012, 336 million abortions – more than the entire US population – were carried out in registered facilities alone. (Though the one-child policy was not introduced until about 1979, other family-planning policies were already in place at the time.)
The National Health and Family Planning Commission, the government agency responsible for enforcing the one-child policy, reports an even higher figure: more than 13 million surgical abortions each year – a figure that does not include abortions induced by drugs or carried out in unregistered private clinics.