Lancet Commission Sanitizes China’s Human Rights Abuses Against Mothers and Children

By Alexis I. Fragosa, Esq. and Rebecca Oas, Ph.D. | June 24, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 25 (C-Fam) A new Lancet Commission on the state of maternal and child health in the People’s Republic of China since its founding highlights progress in reducing deaths but makes glaring omissions regarding China’s human rights abuses against women and children, including its one-child policy and its draconian enforcement measures.

The Commission not only credits China with “outstanding progress” in reducing maternal and child mortality but claims that “[s]tatements such as ‘Women hold up half the sky’ and ‘Children are the future and hope of the motherland’ have not only been, rhetoric but have been consistently practised.”

“The Chinese Communist Party–which controls the ‘motherland’—has been wantonly eliminating China’s hope and future for decades now,” says Steven Mosher, President of the Population Research Institute.  “Now that China’s birth rate is the second lowest in the world, and the country as a whole is in absolute population decline, perhaps the rhetoric will match the reality.”

Side-stepping China’s human rights violations altogether, the Commission presents China’s draconian one-child mandate as merely one policy factor affecting the health of Chinese women and children, albeit a “profound” factor.  The Commission states that “positive aspects” of the one-child policy include a reduction in fertility “from 2.9 in 1979 to 1.6 in 2015, so that the cumulative number of births was reduced by approximately 400 million,” which is credited with helping “lift 300 million people out of poverty.”

The Commission also claims that women benefited from the one-child mandate because fewer pregnancies and births meant fewer birth complications and fewer child deaths, due to fewer children. The Commission also claims that China’s one-child policy “accelerated gender equality because of the large number of single daughters who benefited from all household resources.”

“The sanitized language of the report is an attempt–not very convincing–to mask the fact that, from 1980 to 2016, China had a one-child policy in place.  This resulted in millions of forced abortions and sterilizations annually, hundreds of thousands of cases of female infanticide, and the highest female suicide rate in the world,” says Mosher.  “To characterize this as an effort to “reduce maternal and child deaths” is a gross misrepresentation of the brutal reality that women faced in those years.”

The Commission does acknowledge some of China’s current challenges, namely, its aging population, unbalanced sex ratio, and increasing infertility.

It notes that China’s one-child mandate was not historically applied to ethnic minority groups, for whom three or more children have been permitted.  However, China’s treatment of certain ethnic and religious minorities is far from preferential.  It is now widely known that China  regularly subjects Uighur women to pregnancy checks, forced contraceptive intrauterine devices, sterilization and abortion.  This population of Chinese Muslims has also been subjected to mass detention in internment camps both as a threat and as a punishment for failure to comply.

The Lancet is a highly-respected medical journal, and its observations of maternal and child survival trends in China are of general interest to the global medical community.  Yet inasmuch as this Commission “aims to share lessons with low­income and lower­middle income countries,” its characterization of China’s coercive policies in positive terms raises concerns.  Furthermore, The Lancet has a well-established history of taking political stances.

In 2018, it published a joint Commission with the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute proposing an “integrated definition” of “sexual and reproductive health and rights” including abortion.