Unnatural Family Planning

Unnatural Family Planning

Unnatural Family Planning

Science, technology, and life.
June 9 2008 7:24 AM

Unnatural Family Planning

Friday morning, I thought I was all done investigating the ins and outs of the Chinese one-child policy . And then this happened. On Friday evening, Xinhua, the state news service, reported:

/blogs/humannature/2008/06/09/unnatural_family_planning/jcr:content/body/slate_image
William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

China's family planning authority are to send a medical team to conduct surgery to reverse sterilization operations on parents wanting another child in China's earthquake zone. Zhang Shikun, director of the science and technology bureau of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, said, "The team, comprised of experts on childbearing, will conduct surgery in the quake-hit areas to provide technological support for those wanting to give birth to another." The team was part of the commission's plan to provide free reproduction services, including counseling, guidance, surgery, and the implementation of artificial reproduction technology, for those who wish to have another child, she said.

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You have to hand it to the Chinese government. First, they tell you not to give birth to more than one child (unless you run a farm, or you're an ethnic minority, or you and your spouse have no siblings, or a bunch of other exceptions). On the other hand, they're going all-out to make sure that if you obeyed that policy and lost your only child in the quake, you can get another.

Those tubes you tied, thinking you were done procreating? We'll untie them for you, gratis. Vasectomy? Schmectomy. In fact, if you're too old now to make babies the old-fashioned way, we'll provide "artificial reproduction technology" to help you along.

Now, that's what I call full-service public health insurance.

What's really going on here, of course, is public fury over all the kids who died in poorly built schools . The government limited those families to one child and then failed to protect their kids. The whole premise of Saving Private Ryan was that the U.S. government dare not cost a family its last child. But that's exactly what has happened in China, thousands of times over. According to Xinhua, family-planning authorities in Sichuan, the quake-hit province, estimate that 7,000 families lost their sole children in the disaster, and 16,000 sole children in other families suffered injuries or disabilities.

Through this combination of totalitarianism and incompetence, the Chinese government took away one of nature's greatest fulfillments: procreation. Now it's trying to make up for that theft by delivering surgeries and technologies to replace your lost child with a new one. You have to wonder what other options the government would be offering bereft parents in their 40s if reproductive cloning were sufficiently refined.

Would that be wrong, once the technology is safe? If the one-child limit is morally defensible, and if that child dies through government neglect, and if it's OK to use artificial technology to help the couple make a new child ... what's wrong with cloning the old one?

Go ahead, speak up . It's a free country.