China offers incentives to women who have children, but single mothers are not included

2022-07-08 04:02:13 By : Mr. David zhu

Special for Infobae of The New York Times.When Chan Zhang learned that the US Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade, she was shocked that Americans were still fighting for abortion rights.“In general, society here is not in favor of abortion,” said Zhang, a 37-year-old professor who recently joined the faculty of a prestigious university on China's east coast, “but I feel that women have right to decide if they want to have an abortion.Abortion, like most reproductive issues in China, is highly centralized in the authority of the Chinese Communist Party.For decades, the party forced women to have abortions and sterilization as part of its one-child policy.Now, facing a demographic crisis, he wants women to have more than one child…preferably three.But Beijing continues to decide who can have children and, with its draconian family planning policies, is discriminating against both minorities and single mothers like Zhang.Many women say that now the question is: why would they want to have children?With China's birthrate at record lows, authorities have been providing tax and mortgage credits, education benefits and even monetary incentives to encourage women to have more children.However, these benefits are only available to married couples, a prerequisite that is becoming less attractive for independent women who, in some cases, would prefer to have their children alone.Babies born to single parents in China have long struggled to receive some social benefits, such as health insurance and education.Single women who are pregnant are almost always denied access to public health care and insurance that has maternity leave coverage.They also do not have legal protection in case their employers fire them for being pregnant.Some single women, including Zhang, simply choose not to have children, tacitly counteracting Beijing's control over women's bodies.Those who find ways to evade the rules almost always abide by the consequences imposed by the State.“A lot of people think that being a single mother means facing public opinion, but that's not the case,” said Sarah Gao, a 46-year-old single mother living in Beijing who is outspoken on reproductive rights."It's actually to this system."Under Chinese law, in order to get prenatal care at a public hospital, the pregnant woman and her husband have to go to register their marriage.When Gao found out that she was pregnant, she had to tell doctors at a hospital that her husband was abroad so they could treat her.Her daughter was born in November 2016 and eight months after her, she was fired from her job, prompting her to file a discrimination lawsuit against the company where she worked.The company won because, as a single mother, Ella Gao is not entitled to the benefits and protections of the law.The court found that having given birth out of wedlock "did not conform to China's national policy."Gao will appeal a third time.China's national policy related to family planning does not explicitly state that a single woman cannot have children, but her definition of her mother is that of a married woman and she prefers mothers who are married.It is common for municipalities to offer money bonuses to families whose babies have recently been born.Dozens of cities have expanded maternity leave, adding another month to the leave of mothers with a second or third child.A province in northwest China is even considering granting a license for a whole year.Some have instituted "parenting breaks" for married couples with young children.But these incentives are not succeeding in reversing the demographic crisis, especially given the constant decline in the percentage of marriages in China, which last year reached its lowest level in 36 years.Women who came of age during the period of greatest economic growth in China's modern history are increasingly concerned about losing their hard-won independence if they settle down.At the most recent annual meeting of China's legislature, which passes all laws, a politician argued that the party be more tolerant of single mothers who want children and give them the same rights as married couples.Yet even as population decline threatens Beijing's economic aspirations, the Chinese authorities have rarely been able to make lasting policy changes.Last year, the inland province of Hunan said it was considering offering fertility services for single mothers, but has made little progress.When Shanghai decided to suspend its policy of granting maternity benefits only to married women, it reversed that decision a few weeks later, making abundantly clear how hard it is for authorities to loosen their grip on family planning. .“At the societal level, it is a threat to both the legally recognized institution of marriage and social stability,” said Zheng Mu, an associate professor of sociology at the National University of Singapore who studies fertility in China.Ten years ago, Kelly Xie, 36, got married because she wanted to have a child.“At that time I was already the right age and I began to choose and make decisions;he seemed like the best option,” she commented.Four years later, she gave birth to her daughter, but she was not happy in her marriage.Her mother-in-law adored her husband and was quick to criticize Xie when something was wrong in the house, sometimes even calling her at work to complain about dust in a corner or an unwashed dish in the sink.Now that she is divorced, Ella Xie says that she would like to have a second child on her own, but her options are limited.One possibility is to travel abroad to receive in vitro fertilization, or IVF, which can be prohibitively expensive for some women.At the moment, Ella Xie is searching the internet in hopes of finding someone who wants to help her get pregnant the traditional way.It would be very supportive if single mothers were offered maternity insurance that would cover the costs of some fertility services, such as IVF, she noted.Now in Beijing, for example, married women can freeze their eggs and access other subsidized IVF services thanks to the city's health insurance benefits, part of a new "fertility support" policy.Almost nowhere in the country is IVF legal for unmarried women, so when she was 29, Li Xueke went to Thailand to have the procedure done there.Li, an entrepreneur who made her fortune from her modeling schools, told herself that if at the age of 30 she had not found any man she wanted to marry, she would have a child on her own.In the end, she had triplets and, almost three years later, she doesn't regret her decision.