In his syndicated column for October 24, 1991, U.S. columnist Jack Anderson confronted female infanticide in rural China, one of the hideous side effects of the government’s one-child policy.

According to Mr. Anderson’s intelligence, and unnamed sources in China, upwards of 1 million baby girls have been killed in the country’s rural provinces since 1979 when the Chinese government mandated its one-child policy.

The government’s totalitarian family planning program aggravates what is already a distressing feature of Chinese society: the inferior status of girls.  Baby girls also lose out because of the nature of the peasant economy.  “A son works for his family all of his life,” Mr. Anderson explains.  “A daughter marries and then works for her husband’s family.  A family without a son has no one to carry on the farm work.”

Chinese authorities permit an exception to the one-child rule if the first child of farmers is a girl, but the family must wait several years to try again and must pay a prohibitively expensive fine.  The alternative – one that many rural families opt for – is infanticide.

Ample evidence exists of practices intended to dispose of unwanted baby girls: midwives keep a pail of water beside the birth bed.  In one village alone, between 1980 and 1981, 40 newborn girls were killed in this way.  But as in the days of Sparta and the early Roman Empire, many of these children are simply killed by exposure.