Saturday, June 28, 2008

Reversing medical procedures in China

China’s government has said that in the face of tremendous grief at the loss of so many children from the recent earthquake, it will provide, free of charge, reverse medical procedures that will allow grieving mothers to have another child if she so chooses.

Under China’s one-child family planning policy set up nearly three decades ago to rein in growth of the country’s population, parents are allowed only one child in most cases (but not all), and mothers are often encouraged to have sterilization surgery after giving birth. If they’re not sterilized and have more than one child, they are punished or fined severely.

As a bereaved mother of an only child myself, what the government doesn’t quite understand is that being given government permission to become pregnant again will not ease the pain of those suffering the loss of an only child right now. Just because you might be able to have another child does not make this loss any easier. Children are not supposed to die before their parents. It is not the order of things. Does the government really believe that they can replace this lost child with another, like replacing a broken toy with a new one? Do they expect parents to move on as if nothing has happened, “try again”, and make that decision immediately.

What occurred in China is devastating. It will take bereaved parents years to even be able to adjust to such a tragedy. For some, it will take a lifetime. The government believes they are doing a service to these mothers. What they need to do right now is provide counseling to help in the grief journey before having the mothers make another decision about reversing the sterilization process.

By this humanitarian gesture from the Chinese government to reverse sterilization, they hope to be applauded for restoring the nurturing family as an important cultural link in local society.

China now has public education programs about health and population growth. People—especially women—are better informed and can make sensible family planning decisions. The government should let them do that by revising and liberalizing birth planning policies and give women the right to control their own fertility. Perhaps then, if this tragedy were to ever happen again, the grief journey and some of the anguish these mothers feel now about making a reverse sterilization decision can be reduced.

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