United States evangelist Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network and the Christian Coalition, recently shocked pro-lifers with his support of China’s brutal one-child policy.

On the April 16 CNN show Wolf Blitzer Reports, Robertson said he doesn’t “agree” with forced abortions and forced sterilizations, but he excused them nonetheless: “They’ve got 1.2 billion people, and they don’t know what to do. If every family over there was allowed to have three or four children, the population would be completely unsustainable.”

Robertson, who described himself as “a friend of China” – he has long advocated closer ties with the Communist state, has toured China spreading the Gospel and has several business ventures there – said the Chinese economy and political stability would be imperiled by a larger population. “So, I think that right now they’re doing what they have to do. I don’t agree with the forced abortion, but I don’t think the United States needs to interfere with what they’re doing internally in this regard.”

When Wolf Blitzer asked, “But in effect, won’t your critics on the right be saying that Pat Robertson is justifying abortions in China?”, Robertson answered with the ambiguous response, “I just think they need to get involved in what’s happening.”

Robertson did however condemn sex-selection abortion which could lead to “a demographic catastrophe.”

The Population Research Institute said Robertson’s comments were typical of the misunderstandings people have about population growth. On April 19, PRI President Steven Mosher, said “Robertson is simply wrong when he says that ‘[China’s leaders] are doing what they have to do’.”

Mosher said “China’s policy of forced abortion and forced sterilization is completely unjustified – and unjustifiable.”

After initial reactions of shock and outrage from pro-lifers, Robertson issued a clarification. He said, “I did not express my full conviction in regard to the question of population growth of mainland China. I have been and will always be strongly pro-life … I did not preface my remarks with my long-held view, but I merely expressed what to me seemed obvious – that the Chinese people with a population of 1.2 billion will face a tragic dilemma of massive proportions if they permit their population to explode upwards of 2 billion people.”

He went on to say that “Given their situation, intelligent family planning reflects an obvious necessity; however, I am unalterably opposed to the policy which would result in forced abortions or sex selection.”

The Family Research Council said, “It’s a clarification that doesn’t clarify.” Charles A. Donovan, FRC’s executive vice-president, said, “I’m saddened and surprised” by Robertson’s comments. Donovan said forced abortion “doesn’t need comfort, and it certainly doesn’t need comfort from a Christian and a conservative.”

Gary Bauer, a former Republican presidential candidate and the president of American Values, said that “a number of people that ought to know better,” such as “some good American capitalists and too many conservative leaders,” are “willing to make excuses for reprehensible behaviour by Beijing.”

But PRI’s Mosher told The Interim that Robertson’s “clarification clarified that he supports China’s brutal, immoral and indefensible one-child policy.” Mosher said Robertson came out against forced abortions but did nothing to condemn or counter the argument that a one-child policy is necessary in China.

“He believes, as does the Chinese government, that the Chinese people cannot be allowed to decide the number of children to have themselves.”

Mosher said it is not the people but the government that is the problem in China. He listed the routine violations of human rights including forced abortions, denial of religious liberty and torture and wondered how Robertson could support the government.

“There is a fundamental contradiction in the views expressed by Pat Robertson [in supporting the one-child policy] and Christian Scripture which views children as a blessing, not a burden.”