An ultrasound image is a picture worth more than a thousand words when it comes to understanding key differences between the values that separate the United States and the People’s Republic of China.
In the United States, ultrasound image technology has been instrumental in establishing the unborn child as a living, breathing, sensing person. Several states are in the process of enacting laws requiring abortion practitioners to offer pregnant women the chance to see an ultrasound image of their baby before performing an abortion. Congress is considering the Informed Choice Act, which allows pregnancy help clinics to receive federal grants to purchase ultrasound equipment.
Conventional wisdom predicts that the more people can discern the humanity of the unborn child, the less likely they are to want to destroy it. In fact, studies show that more than 90% of women who see an ultrasound of their unborn child choose not to abort.
In China, however ultrasound technology functions as the means to a much different end. There, because of the Communist government’s brutal 25-year one child policy, and since boys are considered more valuable than girls—as they carry on the family name and are expected to care for aging parents—ultrasound machines are employed to determine the sex of the baby. Then, if the baby is a girl, abort her.
How revealing that the very same technology—used in one nation to save lives—is exploited in another to snuff out the existence of those lives deemed unfit or less valuable.
The contrasting uses of ultrasound highlight the profound ideological cleft that separates America from China.
American democracy holds that every person possesses an inherent, God-given and inalienable dignity and value. While our legal and political institutions have sometimes failed to recognize these self-evident truths, the United States, because of its foundation in faith, usually ultimately overcomes the temptation to regard utility as the sole criterion for measuring anyone’s worth.
Chinese communism, on the other hand, values efficiency and utility. Infanticide was historically a very common way of getting rid of unwanted children in China, and because many die young, Chinese children are sometimes not even given a name until they reach their first birthday. Naming them would be too humanizing.
In China, sex-selective abortions are so widespread that the government is now concerned about a devastating gender imbalance. In some regions, 140 boys are born for every 100 girls. Yet, despite this demographic disaster, the Chinese government continues to persecute women who exceed their quota of children (usually one child). Some women are imprisoned, tortured, or forcibly aborted or sterilized.
The effects of China’s crusade to slow population growth, and its resulting gender-gap, have caused a number of significant socio-economic problems. First, since women are scarce, prostitution has become a powerful industry. The U.S. State Department estimated that as many as 10 million people in China were involved in prostitution in 2001. Predictably, the rise in the sex-trade has brought with it an increase in sexually transmitted diseases. The Chinese government, which tends to underestimate these statistics, has said that more than 120 million Chinese have hepatitis B and over one million have HIV. Also the trafficking in infants and women has increased sharply, and China’s female suicide rate is five times the world average.
What’s more, over the past 10 years, China has seen a sharp rise in violent crime, mostly committed by the surplus men who, unable to find wives or employment, often resort to drug use and a life of crime. The government’s reaction has been to tighten its tyrannical grip, which completes a vicious cycle where state control of reproduction leads to social tension and disorder that intensifies until the government feels it must become even more authoritarian in order to check civil unrest. This, of course, only perpetuates social instability.
Chinese government officials have finally acknowledged the gender gap, and have “outlawed” the use of ultrasound machines for sex-selective abortions. But, outlawing these machines doesn’t address the root of the crisis: an ideology in which human life has no inherent value, a philosophy that says human life can be manipulated and a stronger, fitter race can be bred.
Worried about China’s increasing militarization and belligerence, while at the same time captivated by its economic performance, the West dreams of a reformed China that can someday soon be integrated into the global order. But, while other nations have made it clear that economic considerations trump political and social concerns, the United States must stand resolute, if alone, in insisting that China turn away from its appalling record of human rights violations, especially its inexcusable one-child policy.
As an ultrasound gives us a glimpse of life yet unborn, U.S. policy must give China’s citizens more than a glimpse into the values necessary to develop a truly free and prosperous society.