Since China’s so-called “one child” policy began in 1979, cheap, easy and anonymous birth control has been tantamount to a government-guaranteed right. Chinese pharmacies have long made birth control pills and emergency contraceptives -- also known as the “morning after pill" -- available without a prescription.
But on Dec. 21, in a move that shocked Chinese citizens, the local Food and Drug Administration of Fuzhou, the capitol city of Fujian Province, abruptly issued an order requiring its pharmacies to acquire "real name registration" -- the names, phone numbers and government identification numbers -- of women seeking emergency contraceptives.
One of the two most common morning after pills, the steroid mifepristone, can also be used as an abortificant when amassed in sufficient quantities. This matters because there's a campaign on against gender selective abortions (partly run buy the PLA's general logistics department, oddly enough), which are now formally illegal, at least to the extent that some attempt has to be made to cover them up. So real name registration is one local government's attempt to stop people stockpiling drugs that can procure abortion. Adds Adam Minter:
...rather than inspire a conversation about sex-selective abortion and its deleterious effect on China's demographics, the Fuzhou rule has provoked a national discussion about the costs and benefits of a right to privacy. Many are questioning, with reasonable suspicion, what pharmacies -- and the Party -- will do with a register of people who have bought emergency contraceptives.
I suspect the answer may be 'sell it to dodgy marketing companies'. Assuming someone cross references the data, there's a blackmail goldmine in there as well, and the first rule of anything in China is that if it can be made to have merchantable value, it will be sold or exchanged, whatever 'it' happens to be. But looking at the bigger picture, there is a growing sense at various levels that the one child policy needs to be either radicaly reformed or abandoned. This may push that discussion along a little more.