By Jessica Easthope
Kathleen can’t tell you her last name, but she wants you to know her story.
“I was pregnant at the time,” she says. “It was my second and they told me if I gave birth in China, I would get in a lot of trouble, like losing my job and losing my property.”
It’s the story of so many Chinese families, torn between a government policy and faith. After having her first daughter, Kathleen dodged the government mandated birth control. Then in 1998, she became pregnant with her second daughter. She knew she would be forced to go against God’s will.
“I just sneaked away. I didn’t do that, so when I got pregnant, I must get an abortion,” Kathleen says. “There is no choice.”
Years later, China is undergoing a major policy shift – one the government hopes will help grow its now declining population. For the first time in decades, married couples are allowed to have three children. In 1980, China’s one-child policy went into effect, shortly before the country became home to more than one-billion people.
“The third-child policy right now, I think in terms of policy, of course it’s a major switch, a major change,” said Sister Monica Gan, C.S.T., the pastoral associate at St. John Vianney Church in Flushing, Queens. “But in reality, it does not make a change.”
Sister Monica says while much of the world views the third-child policy as progress, Chinese people, especially Chinese Catholics, do not.
“One child policy, three-child policy, even ten-child policy, it’s the same thing,” Sister Monica says. “The government makes the decision for you and we know the right of reproduction comes from God. Human beings cannot interfere.”
Though the third-child policy is still impossible to live under for many Chinese Catholics, if it had been in place in 1998, Kathleen would be raising her family in China today.
“Yes, I would have stayed in China,” she said. “My family is there, my parents were there. Of course we wanted to stay together. I think I have no choice.”
They believe it’s another form of religious persecution that is rampant in the country.
“The limited family and Christian persecution expose the same problem – no human rights,” Sister Monica says.
Experts at the Centre for China and Globalization say the country could abolish family planning policies all together within the next few years.