When Chan Zhang heard about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, she was baffled that Americans were still arguing over abortion rights.
“Here, overall, the society does not encourage abortion,” said Ms. Zhang, a 37-year-old junior faculty member at a prestigious university on China’s east coast, “but I feel like women have the right in terms of whether they want to get an abortion.”
Abortion, like almost all reproductive issues in China, is heavily centered on Chinese Communist Party authority. The party for decades forced abortions and sterilizations on women as part of its one-child policy. Now, faced with a demographic crisis, it wants women to have more than one baby — and preferably three.
But Beijing is still dictating who can have babies, discriminating against single women like Ms. Zhang and minorities through draconian family planning policies. The question now, many women say, is why they would choose to have any babies at all.
With China’s birthrate at a historical low, officials have been doling out tax and housing credits, educational benefits and even cash incentives to encourage women to have more children. Yet the perks are available only to married couples, a prerequisite that is increasingly unappealing to independent women who, in some cases, would prefer to parent alone.
Babies born to single parents in China have long struggled to receive social benefits like medical insurance and education. Women who are single and pregnant are regularly denied access to public health care and insurance that covers maternity leave. They are not legally protected if employers fire them for being pregnant.
Some single women, including Ms. Zhang, are simply choosing not to have a child, quietly pushing back against Beijing’s…