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In a new Reason magazine feature, Jacob Sullum shares his poignant experience adopting his two daughters from China and spotlights the tyrannical roots of China’s international adoption program:

As I gradually realized, the truth about Chinese adoption is more complicated than the conventional story about Westerners who magnanimously take in China’s unwanted girls. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say these girls are “unwanted” only because the Chinese government has made them so. Although the government’s oppressive, family-destroying policies have had the incidental benefit of bringing joy to the lives of adoptive parents in the U.S. and elsewhere, it will be a great victory for liberty when such heartwarming stories stop appearing on newsstands and bookshelves. These adoptions would not be occurring if the Chinese government did not try to dictate the most basic and intimate of life’s decisions.

Sullum reflects on the monstrous impact of China’s population control policies and the plight of the “missing” girls:

…China is experiencing a serious gender imbalance. The government acknowledges this problem, although it does not concede that its population policy has anything to do with it. “According to the fifth national census conducted in 2000,” the government-operated China Daily reported in 2004, around the time we adopted Mei, “the ratio of newborn males per 100 females in China has reached 119.2, much higher than the normal level of between 103 [and] 107.” The official explanation: “Gender discrimination against females is quite common in many rural and underdeveloped areas, which has led to artificial choice of newborn babies’ gender by ultrasonic wave. This has reduced the number of female newborn babies.”

According to United Nations development official Khalid Malik, the newborn gender gap could result in something like 60 million “missing” females by the end of the decade, which amounts to about 2 million per year in the three decades since the Chinese government began enforcing population controls. The International Planned Parenthood Federation estimates that 7 million abortions are performed in China each year and that 70 percent of the aborted fetuses are female. That’s 4.9 million girls who are not born, vs. 2.1 million boys, implying an annual difference of 2.8 million. Assuming Planned Parenthood’s estimate is in the right ballpark, it seems that sex-selective abortions are enough on their own to explain China’s gender imbalance.

Sullum’s last line on the adoption of his youngest daughter: “As grateful as I am for the opportunity to see Mei every day and watch her grow up, I realize that in a better world we never would have met.”



Interestingly, as Sullum notes in his piece, there are far more domestic adoptions of Chinese girls than you might think. He cites a report that more than 56,000 officially recognized domestic adoptions took place in China in 2000. USA Today reported this week that foreign adoptions peaked in 2005 and fell this year, partly due to tighter restrictions on Americans and others adopting and partly due to a surge in in-country adoptions. Those figures don’t include millions of informal adoptions. Still, as Sullum notes, these informally adopted children “are not eligible for a hukou, the residence permit that allows access to school and other benefits. In addition to the hardships associated with lack of a hukou and the expense of raising another child, couples who adopt informally risk penalties for skirting limits on family size.”


I read Sullum’s piece last night with my own 7-year-old daughter looking over my shoulder. She liked looking at the accompanying photos of one of Sullum’s beautiful daughters. I explained how and why so many Chinese girls are adopted and come to America. Both she and my son have classmates who were adopted from China. Afterward, she made another leaf for our Thanksgiving tree. Completely unprompted and out of the blue, this is what she wrote:


Kids say the darnedest things.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Abortion