Coercion in Family Planning (Prohibition)

– in the House of Commons at 4:11 pm on 3rd May 1995.

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Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess , Basildon 4:11 pm, 3rd May 1995

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make it unlawful for any Minister or Crown servant to assist any programme which involves forced abortion, forced sterilisation or coercive family planning. I had hoped to be making this speech following a trip that I was due to make last week to Hong Kong and China. The trip would have been under the auspices of Christian Solidarity, and was to have been with two United States congressmen. Sadly, although the Chinese authorities granted me a visa, they decided at the last minute—for whatever reason—to withdraw the visas for the two congressmen. However, I hope that we shall be able to make the trip later this year.

It has come to my attention that the short title of the Bill has caused some confusion among colleagues, so I say straight away that the purpose of the Bill is not to argue the rights or wrongs of abortion policy in the United Kingdom, or, indeed, in any other country where abortion and family planning are matters of personal choice. My own stand on such issues is well known in the House, but the issue covered in the Bill should unite those who think as I do on the general issue of abortion and those who take the opposite view. Indeed, a measure such as this was successfully introduced in the US Congress in 1985.

The objective of the Bill is to prevent any financial or political complicity, albeit unwitting, by Britain in compulsory abortion, contraception or compulsory sterilisation. Compulsory abortion, the forced use of contraception and the denial of a woman's right to choose to have children is precisely what has happened on a substantial scale in China over the past 25 years, under the "one family, one child" policy.

That that should happen at all is bad enough, but what is even less acceptable, and what I seek to persuade the House to reject, is that such practices should be endorsed, encouraged or defended by any organisation in which Britain has a participative interest.

The Bill would prohibit British funding for forced abortion and sterilisation in China. It will send a clear message to Peking that British or western support can no longer be used as an argument in favour of the mass abuse of fundamental human rights.

The Bill would not have any effect on family planning programmes based on full information and choice. Indeed, it would not even affect programmes that offer incentives to contraceptive use, whatever my private views on the issue might be. The Bill is concentrated solely on programmes that are based on coercion. I say again that I am interested only in preventing programmes that are coercive and based on the bullying and intimidation of women—the very antithesis of free and fully informed choice which should be the hallmark of every programme to which we as a nation give money.

The Chinese population control programme has already been the subject of all-party concern in the House. Early-day motions were signed by hon. Members of all political views and of different views on abortion. The United Nations declaration on human rights guarantees all the right to freely found a family and decide the numbers and spacing of children". The Chinese are signatories to that declaration, yet Canzinghong, the Chinese Minister for Family Planning, has commented: The size of the family is too important to be left to the couple. Births are a matter of state planning". Since the early 1970s and the first population high tide, the Chinese Government have therefore trampled parents' rights into the ground, and have imposed birth control on women who simply do not want it.

In this country, we often hear of a woman's right to choose. Surely that implies a woman's right to choose to have children as much as a woman's right to choose not to have children. Under Chinese law, couples are obliged to use contraception until they have obtained a strictly rationed birth permit. The permits are subject to a local quota, which is part of a regional quota decided at national level and handed down by Peking. The law insists that, after the birth of the first child, an IDU must be inserted into the woman, whether it is medically suitable or not. Thousands of women suffer pain, internal injury or death when they try to extract the devices without medical supervision.

Women who manage to evade the draconian laws and to have a second child are subject to forcible abortion and forcible sterilisation. The penalties for disobedience are severe. If one woman evades the law, her factory or collective may lose contracts, and all her colleagues may lose their pay rises. The couple will be subject to fines equivalent to a worker's annual wage. Women who evade forcible sterilisation or abortion by hiding when the Government squads come round will be rounded up on a later night and manhandled into the clinics for operations. The effects of the coercive Chinese population control programme are horrific, in every hon. Member's view.

Infanticide has been reported since population control started. The rural Chinese have a strong cultural prejudice towards having a son. I touched on the matter in the House when introducing a ten-minute Bill through which I tried to persuade the House not to allow sex selection. Under the one-child policy, parents have killed their children if they are girls, to qualify for the birth quota and the chance of later having a son.

Desperate women about to give birth to an illegal child have sought help in a hospital, only to have the child killed immediately after birth by drowning or an injection to the head of the infant. The prejudice for having a son has left whole provinces with a massive imbalance between boys and girls, which I drew to the attention of the House in a previous ten-minute Bill.

It cannot be right that there should be even the remotest suggestion of any western complicity in such a catalogue of horror. It is therefore incumbent on us to ensure that any moneys given to the poor funds of the International Planned Parenthood Federation and the UN's Population Fund are not used for such purposes. I have had discussions with my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) on the role of those two organisations, and he has reassured me on a number of points. Others claim, however, that there is plenty of evidence that the FPA has actively supported the Chinese regime.

Nafis Sadik, the executive director of the FPA, said: China has every reason to feel proud and pleased by its remarkable achievements in its family planning policy and control of its population growth. I do not wish to take a quote out of context. She goes on to say: Now China could offer its experience and special experts to other countries. God forbid. I sincerely hope that the Government will forbid it too.

When the organisations were given evidence, they changed the goal posts on the matter.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. David Amess, Mr. Michael Alison, Mr. David Alton, Mr. Joe Benton, Mr. Derek Enright, Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones, Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman, Dame Jill Knight, Mr. Thomas McAvoy, Lady Olga Maitland, Mrs. Elizabeth Peacock and Mrs. Ann Winterton.