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Shanghai Will Amend Family Statute

Shanghai will enforce stricter control of technologies used in family planning services, stop illegal gender-checks of fetus and reduce unplanned births among the migrant population, but alleviate punishment for unplanned births.

The "more practical and feasible approach" to birth control will be introduced under a revised local regulation to be adopted after China's first law on population and family planning takes effect on September 1, said officials of the city's family planning department.

Lawmakers and health officials are now doing field studies and research to map out the new version. This will be the fourth amendment since the city issued its own regulation on family planning in 1990. The last amendment was made in 1997.

"The city is revising the regulation to bring it in line with the new national law, which is a milestone for family planning in this country," said Wei Longgeng, spokesman for the Shanghai Population and Family Planning Commission.

The regulation, with seven chapters and 47 articles, contains policies on population development, birth control, social guarantees, technological service for family planning and legal responsibility.

The new version of the local regulation will provide a comprehensive outlook on birth control, including additional restrictions on technology adopted in family planning service, fairer treatment for families with unplanned children and stricter administration of the migrant population.

For instance, the law rules that it is illegal to check the gender of the fetus using ultrasonic equipment. But Shanghai, with its advanced medical standards, has other means to do so, the official said.

"Our revised regulation will take care of more aspects like these," Wei said.

While retaining the one-child policy as the cornerstone for family planning, the national law clarifies that couples can have a second child under certain circumstances. Every province can have its own guidelines on this issue.

Under the new regulation, parents in Shanghai whose first-borns are non-hereditary handicapped, or when both the parents hail from one-child families may, after paying about 100,000 yuan (US$12,000) for the so-called "social expenditures" to the government, rear the second child.

However, in the past, the child and the parents would suffer in other ways apart from the payment. For example, the child could face problems going to school or finding a job. The parents would receive less welfare, or their chances of promotion could be far less, compared to those who have one child.

"These kinds of restrictions will be removed in the revised rule. After paying the money, both the kid and the parents can enjoy the same rights as others," Wei said.

He scoffed at claims that the ruling was nothing but a relaxation of curbs on unplanned birth. "The employers and the neighborhood committees will face punishment if their employees or residents violate family planning laws. It will be up to them to try and persuade the couple to go for an abortion if it is found that the pregnancy does not conform to the policy on having a second child," he said.

"But that is not the main problem. The important thing is how to control the movement of the migrant population and the unplanned births among them. In the new regulation, more detailed rules and management measures will be issued," Wei said.

Officials, however, admitted that it is difficult, if not impossible, to enforce the one-child policy among migrants.

The new regulation will push for the establishment of a tracking system to register migrants. Health workers and neighborhood committee staff will be asked to give regular lectures on birth control, launch strict supervision and provide the same service for them as permanent residents, such as distributing con-traceptives and offering consultation from time to time.

The city's population has maintained a negative natural growth rate for the past nine years. The present birth rate is 0.55 percent. Last year, about 69,400 children were born in Shanghai with a total population of 16.7 million.

(eastday.com February 20, 2002)

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