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China to Keep Fighting Against Selective Abortions
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China has not relaxed its fight against sex selection abortions even though its newly revised Criminal Law does not criminalize the practice, say family planning officials.

"The decision to not criminalize sex selection abortion does not mean any policy relaxation," said an official with the State Commission for Population and Family Planning (SCPFP) who declined to be named.

The government has prosecuted 3,000 cases of fetus gender identification and selective abortions for non-medical purposes over the past two years. The practice was made illegal with the adoption of the Population and Family Planning Law and Law on Maternal and Infant Health, said the official.

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress or China's legislature scrapped an amendment that would have criminalized abortions based on the sex of the fetus in late June as lawmakers held sharply divided views.

The amendment called for fines and prison terms of up to three years for aborting a fetus based on the sex of the fetus, but some lawmakers argued that it is hard to collect evidence and pregnant women should enjoy the right to know the sex of their unborn child.

In China, where sons are traditionally preferred and most couples can have only one child, a number of prospective parents used to abort their pregnancy if tests showed the fetus was female. As a result there are 119 boys born for every 100 girls in China, much higher than the global ratio of 103 to 107 boys for 100 girls.

Zhang Weiqing, minister in charge of the SCPFP, said that the government will prosecute institutions and individuals involved in illegal selective abortions.

Only seven out of 31 provincial regions report a gender ratio below 110 boys to 100 girls and boys under the age of nine outnumber girls in the same age group by 12.77 million.

Li Shuzhuo, professor with the Xi'an Jiaotong University, urged the government to create more policy incentives and build a rural social security net to help squelch people's preference for boys.

The SCPFP has launched a "Care for Girls" program in 24 counties around the country in 2003 to promote the social status of girls and women. It also provides social benefits, including cash payments to families with only girls. The program is credited with a more balance gender ratio in the pilot regions.

(Xinhua News Agency August 2, 2006)

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