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The Grim Reality for Second-Born Children in China

Photograph by Getty Images

As a mom of two, I wring my hands with worry about my 6-year-old daughter on a near-daily basis. Will she bump up against the glass ceiling? Can I protect her body? When she's an adult, will she be able to protect herself? My list of worries is longer than a drug store receipt. I have to shut my brain off at night or I will literally go crazy from anxiety about the world she has to make her way through.

And while my fears for her safety and potential to thrive despite obstacles in this country are real, they are honestly nothing compared to what some young children in China face.

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The children born in violation of China's one-child policy literally do not exist in the eyes of the Chinese government. Known as "black children," these children function as aliens in their own country, denied the right to take a train, go to school, get a library card or get married. Thus, for families in violation on the former Chinese policy, their second child exists in an "administrative netherworld," forced to burden their families who cannot provide medicine, education or a chance at a real life to their second-born children because of strictly enforced government policies.

Our daughters still have access to so much more than 13 million children born in China, whose only crime was not being born first.

Chinese families with more than one child report being shunned by their communities, fired from their jobs and harassed physically by state police. And while Chinese law provides that families in violation of the one-child rule can legalize their subsequent children by paying a fine known as a "hukou," the amounts often far exceed what a struggling family can pay.

According to census data, there are over 13 million "black children" in China today.

Last week, the Chinese government announced a new rule that couples would be allowed to have two children. There's a huge demographic crisis with too few workers, too many elderly and too many men (thanks in part to the long-held preference for sons that has been stressed by the one-child policy).

But that rule will not go into effect until early next year. Until then, the one-child policy remains in force, and millions of children and their families will be forced to subsist on the fringes of a society they were born into. In fact, the ruling Communist Party announced last week that while it was ending the one-child rule, which was instituted in the 1970s, "all localities and departments must seriously implement the population and family planning laws and regulations currently in effect" until the new law is officially adopted. That means that the precarious situation for families who currently have two children will continue for at least five more months.

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As for our daughters, who have the misfortune of growing up in a country where a presidential hopeful (Trump) can spew misogynist rhetoric about nursing mothers and call a female panel moderator a bimbo, while another (Rubio) can denounce a woman's right to an abortion in the case of rape or incest, they still have access to so much more than 13 million children born in China, whose only crime was not being born first.

We have some issues in this country—real issues—and I will continue to fight hard for my daughter to inherit a better society than the one I grew up in. At the very same time, I can be grateful for what we do have here, a sacred freedom I too often take for granted.

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