A health official has called for more attention to be paid to the risks facing rural women afraid to seek professional maternal services because they are having more babies than the country's family planning policy allows.
Vice-Health Minister Jiang Zuojun said at a recent national conference on women and children: "Some women, who dare not apply for financial aid with childbirth for fear of being punished for having more than one child, choose to have their babies delivered at home or in low-cost, but substandard private clinics."
China has followed a strict family planning policy since the 1970s. It encourages late marriages and late childbearing, and limits most urban couples to one child and most rural couples to two.
The policy is credited with preventing 400 million new births in the country.
However, an underdeveloped social security network in rural areas and people's deeply rooted traditional preference for male heirs has prompted some rural families to defy the policy by having more babies.
Many expectant mothers who choose to defy the rule prefer to risk death during childbirth rather than face a heavy fine.
Jiang said the government will hand out harsher penalties to substandard rural clinics and at the same time build more rural medical facilities.
Local departments of health, women and children, civil affairs officials and public security forces should all join the effort to discourage pregnant women from taking such risks and aim to provide proper health services to rural women living in cities, Jiang said.
(Xinhua News Agency May 8, 2007)