One of four Uyghur women forced into late-term abortions in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region underwent the brutal procedure while she was ill, her husband said this week, as a fifth woman was brought to the same hospital for a forced abortion.
Helchihan Mettursun, 36, and the three others had been forced by local authorities to undergo the forced abortions at the hospital in Hotan prefecture in the last week of December—including one woman who was nine months along, according to officials.
Mettursun’s abortion six months into her pregnancy was a wrenching 28-hour ordeal that took place after local officials led her away from her home in a taxi while she was unconscious from fainting, her husband Abdurrahman Metturdi told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
The first time officials came to their home to take Mettursun, who suffers from heart trouble, away to the hospital for the abortion, they had given up after Mettursun had a seizure, he said.
But they returned the next day, taking her away to the hospital in a taxi.
There, she received an injection while tied down to the bed, and was kept that way for more than a day until staff confirmed her fetus was dead, he said.
“They said the baby would come out in 24 hours, but it took 28 hours and during that time my wife was in agonizing pain, she was crying. I could not take it anymore and I went out,” he said.
“At that moment I thought, those who get executed with one bullet to the head must be luckier than us.”
Before the officials came, the couple, who has three daughters, had been nursing Metturdi’s 83-year-old father Metturdi Seydi, who died shortly after the abortion, he said.
“When my father heard the sad news about my baby, he passed away in pain,” said Metturdi, who is now caring for his wife as she recuperates at home.
“When I thought of my baby and how he was in agonizing pain while he was struggling to survive, my heart was torn apart in pain for days,” he said.
Mettursun and the three other women who had abortions at the Nurluq hospital in Keriya (in Chinese, Yutian) county were among six originally slated for the procedure that week, local officials had told RFA late last month.
Two of the women, however—one seven months along and the other more than four—managed to avoid the procedure, with one of them fleeing the area with her husband for a few weeks.
Officials at the Nurluq Hospital have denied performing the procedures, but the Arish township deputy chief and county family planning department head confirmed late last month that they had been carried out.
Arish township deputy chief Eniver Momin told RFA that due to recent publicity about the cases, local officials had temporarily put a halt on further planned abortions while they awaited orders from prefecture-level authorities about whether to continue.
On Monday morning, witnesses at the hospital told RFA that officials had brought in a woman from nearby Siyek township for a forced abortion.
Hospital officials said, however, that the woman left the facility Monday afternoon, accompanied by Siyek township officials, without having an abortion.
Hospital deputy director Memtimin Turdi confirmed the woman had been brought to the facility, but said no procedure had been performed.
Asked how many forced abortions had been performed in the hospital in the past three weeks, Turdi said the hospital had not done any.
Under a new law passed in December, married couples in China will be permitted to have a second child if one spouse is an only child. Current regulations allow a second child in certain cases, including if both spouses are only children themselves.
As ethnic minorities, the Uyghurs are exempt from the one-child limit.
But under Xinjiang family planning regulations, urban Uyghur couples are limited to two children, while rural couples are allowed three.
Experts say the rules governing "excess birth" are unclear and often abused by local authorities, or by the rich and politically connected, who can afford to pay large fines for bigger families.
Keriya Women’s Union head Aygul Abduweli, who formerly worked in the family planning department for eight years, said laws were unclear on how far local officials could go to enforce the limits, since local officials are authorized to adjust the regulations to their own areas.
“No matter what [rules there are] in central or regional government’s documents, it is also stated that local governments should adjust those regulations according to the situation of their own localities,” she told RFA.
She said regulations varied on how far into her pregnancy a woman could be ordered to abort.
“As a recall, in 2004 in Hotan prefecture had a special government document which clearly stated that it is not permissible to abort five-month pregnancies.”
“In a document from the regional government, they said it was permissible to abort pregnancies over 45 days old,” she said.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Mamatjan Juma. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.