China is reconsidering its one-child policy

A lesson for population-control zealots from a country that put the concept into bloody practice:

An aging population and the need for more workers have prompted China’s Communist Party to consider relaxing the decades-long ban that restricts most couples to one child, a harsh policy marked by forced abortions, sterilizations and fines for those who have more than one.

In 2011, China will start pilot projects in five provinces, all of which have low birth rates, to allow a second birth if at least one spouse is an only child, says He Yafu, an independent demographer who is in close contact with policymakers.

Beijing, Shanghai and four other provinces will follow suit in 2012, with nationwide implementation by 2013 or 2014, he says.

“In the past, we only focused on slowing population growth,” says Peng Xizhe, a professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University. “It’s much more complicated than we earlier thought.”

The National Population and Family Planning Commission, which enforces the “one-child policy,” refused interview requests. The policy has prevented 400 million births in China, which has a population of 1.3 billion, according to the family planning agency. But a dramatic decline in birth rates and improved longevity over the past two decades have caused China’s population to age at one of the fastest rates ever recorded, says the Population Reference Bureau, a demographic firm.

Also, a traditional preference for boys has led to the abortion of many girls. In 2009, the ratio of newborn boys to newborn girls was 119 to 100, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics.

For three decades, China’s one-child policy has set family sizes in the world’s most populous nation — and symbolized the tight social controls set by its ruling Communist Party. Exceptions have been made, such as allowing rural farm families to have a second child if the first is a girl.

The need for more children to care for parents, plus a gender imbalance that will leave tens of millions of men without wives, are two arguments for a relaxation of the one-child policy, says Siu Yat-ming, who researches Chinese family planning at Hong Kong Baptist University.

via China may relax its one-child rule – USATODAY.com.

Of course, China will still control how many children its citizens are allowed to have and forced abortions will presumably still continue, both until the new policy goes into effect and to prevent any more than two children.  Still, this is some progress.

Obama’s stem cell policy overturned

President Obama’s stem cell policy allows human embryos to be destroyed so their stem cells can be “harvested.”  But a federal court has overturned that policy:

A U.S. district court issued a preliminary injunction on Monday stopping federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research, in a slap to the Obama administration’s new guidelines on the sensitive issue.

The court ruled in favor of a suit filed in June by researchers who said human embryonic stem cell research involved the destruction of human embryos.

Judge Royce Lamberth granted the injunction after finding the lawsuit would likely succeed because the guidelines violated law banning the use of federal funds to destroy human embryos.

“(Embryonic stem cell) research is clearly research in which an embryo is destroyed,” Lamberth wrote in a 15-page ruling. The Obama administration could appeal his decision or try to rewrite the guidelines to comply with U.S. law.

The suit against the National Institutes of Health, backed by some Christian groups opposed to embryo research, argued the NIH policy violated U.S. law and took funds from researchers seeking to work with adult stem cells.

via U.S. court rules against Obama’s stem cell policy | Reuters.

Old people are both wise and happy

Empirical research is finding evidence that old people are not only wiser than younger people  (a traditional belief) but also that they are happier too (which may seem counterintuitive):

Contrary to largely gloomy cultural perceptions, growing old brings some benefits, notably emotional and cognitive stability. Laura Carstensen, a Stanford social psychologist, calls this the “well-being paradox.” Although adults older than 65 face challenges to body and brain, the 70s and 80s also bring an abundance of social and emotional knowledge, qualities scientists are beginning to define as wisdom. As Carstensen and another social psychologist, Fredda Blanchard-Fields of the Georgia Institute of Technology, have shown, adults gain a toolbox of social and emotional instincts as they age. According to Blanchard-Fields, seniors acquire a feel, an enhanced sense of knowing right from wrong, and therefore a way to make sound life decisions.

That may help explain the finding that old age correlates with happiness. A study published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found a U-shaped relationship between happiness and age: Adults were happiest in youth and again in their 70s and early 80s, and least happy in middle age. A 2007 University of Chicago study similarly concluded that rates of happiness — “the degree to which a person evaluates the overall quality of his present life positively” — crept upward from age 65 to 85 and beyond, in both sexes.

via Researchers find that wisdom and happiness increase as people grow older.

Read the rest of the article for the details and the evidence that points to these conclusions.  But how can that be?  What about the breakdown of the body, the loss of faculties, the facing of death?  And yet, even as I grow closer to that stage, I can see it.

From right-to-die to involuntary euthanasia

Pass right-to-die legislation, allowing patients to choose physician-assisted-suicide, and what do you get?  In Belgium, at least, doctors are killing almost as many patients who do not ask to die as those who do.  See Wesley J. Smith, Almost as Many Non Voluntary Euthanasia Deaths in Belgium as Voluntary » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

The conservative case for Kagan

Before the anti-Kagan bandwagon sets off, consider this:

As a White House adviser in 1997, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan urged then-President Bill Clinton to support a ban on late-term abortions, a political compromise that put the administration at odds with abortion rights groups.

Documents reviewed Monday by The Associated Press show Kagan encouraging Clinton to support a bill that would have banned all abortions of viable fetuses except when the physical health of the mother was at risk. The documents from Clinton's presidential library are among the first to surface in which Kagan weighs in the thorny issue of abortion.

The abortion proposal was a compromise by Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle. Clinton supported it, but the proposal failed and Clinton vetoed a stricter Republican ban.

via The Associated Press: Kagan in ’97 urged Clinton to ban late abortions.

UPDATE: Today’s Washington Post has various articles that suggest that Elena Kagan may be the best candidate conservatives could hope for from President Obama:

–As Dean of Harvard Law, she integrated the faculty, bringing in notable conservative scholars.

–Hardcore leftists are angry at the nomination, wishing the president had chosen someone more ideological, less pragmatic, and of an intellectual heft to counter Justices Scalia and Roberts.

Pro-life Oklahoma

My home state of Oklahoma has passed–and overridden a veto of–some strong anti-abortion laws:

The Oklahoma Legislature voted Tuesday to override the governor’s vetoes of two abortion measures, one of which requires women to undergo an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before getting an abortion.

Though other states have passed similar measures requiring women to have ultrasounds, Oklahoma’s law goes further, mandating that a doctor or technician set up the monitor so the woman can see it and describe the heart, limbs and organs of the fetus. No exceptions are made for rape and incest victims.

A second measure passed into law on Tuesday prevents women who have had a disabled baby from suing a doctor for withholding information about birth defects while the child was in the womb.

Opponents argue that the law will protect doctors who purposely mislead a woman to keep her from choosing an abortion. But the bill’s sponsors maintain that it merely prevents lawsuits by people who wish, in hindsight, that the doctor had counseled them to abort a disabled child.

via Strict Abortion Measures Enacted in Oklahoma – NYTimes.com.

The states seem to be asserting themselves. Is a new federalism asserting itself?


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