Reggie Littlejohn is busy. When we speak on the phone, she’s in the process of traveling through Washington, D.C., by train and on foot. At one point, her train goes underground and we’re cut off. Two weeks ago, we couldn’t speak because she was traveling in Europe.
Why is Reggie Littlejohn so busy? Because, as president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, she was involved in the documentary film It’s A Girl, which is being screened around the world as we speak. Recently, it was shown at the British Parliament and the European Parliament, to a diverse audience. “I think it’s pretty encouraging that the film was featured in the Amnesty International Film Festival just a few weeks ago,” says Littlejohn. “Amnesty International is not a pro-life organization.”
Littlejohn is also busy because her organization has launched a campaign that directly, literally saves baby girls. The Save A Girl campaign is one that anyone can get involved in, and it is an excellent way to give thanks for life this Thanksgiving season. The fact is, the multifarious crimes against women, girls, and the unborn in China and India explored in It’s A Girl – forced abortion, female feticide, infanticide, dowry death, and more – are not going away without help from people outside those countries. People like me. And you.
“India does not have a one-child policy,” Littlejohn explains. “India does not have a government-imposed birth limit. People are much freer in India to have a grassroots movement.” As the film explains, though, unfortunately, the culture in India – specifically the tradition of dowry –makes sons so preferred over daughters that deep cultural change will be needed to end crime against women and girls.
In China, things are more difficult; grassroots movements are impossible. “You can’t do that in China. It’s a Communist country where they control the media. People who challenge it end up like Chen Guangcheng,” Littlejohn says, referring to the blind human rights lawyer who was imprisoned for representing women in his province who had been forcibly sterilized or forced to abort their children.
Littlejohn, herself an attorney who has represented Chinese refugees and helped bring Guangcheng to the U.S., is no longer allowed into China.
“There are basically two circumstances of abortion in China,” she says. “The first is forced abortion under the One Child Policy. So if people get pregnant without a birth permit or permission and they can’t pay the fine, they end up with a forced abortion, and that abortion, it doesn’t matter if it’s a boy or a girl.” She also explains that the fines can sometimes be ten times the family’s annual income. “Then there’s gendercide, where baby girls are selected for abortion. The government is not forcing them to do that, but there is a strong correlation between coercion and gendercide.”
In other words, sons are so preferred and the number of children so strictly limited that female babies are selected for abortion – an indirect but clear result of the One Child Policy.
“It’s not just a matter of changing laws,” says Littlejohn. “You’ve got to change the culture.”
In China, there is already evidence of a growing ratio of men to women, and it’s getting worse. “Already child bride kidnapping is happening in China,” Littlejohn tells me. “Also, another big effect is human kidnapping and sexual slavery. China is very much a destination for women and girls who have been trafficked for sexual slavery. Another thing they have is bachelor villages.”
Because females are so often abandoned, killed, or aborted, wives are in high demand, and women are often able to marry above their social strata, leaving poorer men wifeless. “So in the poor villages, the women have all married up, and there are only men in these villages,” Littlejohn says.
While these crimes against females sound foreign and unbelievable, the sad truth is they have come to America. “Studies have indicated that there is sex-selective abortion in the U.S. in communities that practice it in their native land,” says Littlejohn.” The thing that concerns me is the connection between sex-selection abortion and coercion. In most cases I believe in the U.S., as well as China and India, women are under intense pressure to abort if it’s a girl.”
So. The big question: what do we do? How do we stop this?
Changing thousands of years of son-preference culture in two countries and displacing a powerful Communist regime in China will not happen overnight. But there is good news: there is a real, tangible, simple way each one of us can help save the lives of baby girls in China. It’s called the Save A Girl campaign.
“The Save A Girl Campaign is how you can directly save lives in China,” Littlejohn says. “This is the official campaign that is endorsed by the It’s A Girl film.”
Littlejohn explained to me how it worked, and I had to force myself to respond through tears. I’ve been involved in the pro-life movement in various ways for several years, and this is one of the most exciting, moving campaigns I’ve heard of. Here’s how it works: “We have a network inside China of field workers who find women who have had an ultrasound and found out they’re pregnant with a girl and have decided to abort her, or have given birth to a girl and want to abandon her out in a field so she’ll die,” explains Littlejohn. “We go to her and say, ‘Don’t abort your daughter. Don’t abandon your daughter. She is a beautiful girl. We will give you a stipend every month for a year to help you keep this girl.’”
Does that sound incredible? Wait ‘til you hear this: “In every case where we have approached these women, they have kept their girls.”
“We ask people to contribute $25 a month,” says Littlejohn. “Twenty dollars goes to the women and $5 goes to cover our costs and to the field workers who are bravely finding these women and getting the money into their hands.” Right now, after having existed for only a little over a month, Save A Girl can claim 28 lives saved and women helped. “We want to have a thousand babies we’re supporting this time next year. Our only limitation is the finances.”
Women’s Rights Without Frontiers runs the campaign, maintains write-ups and photos on each baby, and collects signatures, via their field workers in China, from the parents when they receive the money. Of course, no photos or names are published. “The Chinese communist party would come and shut us down,” says Littlejohn.
“Our primary focus is to end gendercide,” Littlejohn says, “so we’re definitely locating women who are determined to abort or abandon babies. The other thing we’re doing is helping women who are fleeing from forced abortions. We have one woman who was fleeing from village to village to avoid the family planning police. She had a baby boy a few months ago.”
So Save A Girl is saving more than girls – this campaign is saving babies of both genders, and saving women from the horror of forced abortion.
For those of us who read about gendercide and the crimes against women in China and India and say, If only there were something I could do, this is the answer. For about the price of your monthly – or weekly! – Starbucks budget, you can literally save a life.
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Here in the U.S. we have so much to be thankful for – not the least of which is the lives of baby girls and young women. This Thanksgiving, give thanks for your life and the lives of all women by giving to Save A Girl. Your donation will literally save a life.
Visit the Women’s Rights Without Frontiers website to donate and share this campaign.