Chinese officials have announced that families, whose only child was killed or critically injured in this month's earthquake, will be exempt from the one-child policy, a decision that appears to be only fair.
The reprieve, which at first seems compassionate, highlights the unnatural quality of China's entire family-planning policy. A couple, dealing with the loss of their legal child, will have to apply for permission to have a "legal replacement." If the family already has an illegal second child, the parents will no longer be responsible for outstanding (and hefty) fines; but, fines already paid will not be reimbursed.
Recently China has been considering a modification to its three-decade-old one-child policy, which has prevented as many as 400 million births. As of now, however, reproduction is almost always limited to one child, unless a family is prepared to pay the price in fines.
Will permission to create a "replacement" life bring hope to these grieving parents? Does the government have any right to interfere with a citizen's reproductive rights, even if the society doesn't have the means to support overpopulation?