China's One-Child Mothers

What the Two-Child Policy Changes

Hundreds of students take part in an open-air examination in Baoji, Shaanxi province, China, May 25, 2015. Reuters

In the fall of 1983 when my mother was 29, she received news from her superiors at her shoe factory in Yun, a county in Henan Province, that every female worker who had already had one child would be required to undergo sterilization. The Chinese Communist Party had introduced the one-child policy a few years earlier in 1979, but this was the first time my mother had heard about the policy. And it was the first time it was implemented in her hometown.

The instructions had come through the local All-China Women’s Federation, a party organization that is charged with overseeing women’s issues and family planning. Soon after the announcement, the county government dispatched ten doctors, specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, and set up a temporary medical clinic inside a nearby motel. As the local branch secretary of the federation and a production director at the shoe factory, my mother was

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