Forced Abortion at Seven Months Prompts Outcry


2013.03.26
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A Chinese mother stands by her newborn baby girl at a maternity hospital in Beijing, Jan. 26, 2012.
AFP

Horrific accounts of a forced abortion perpetrated on a woman who was seven months pregnant by family planning authorities in eastern Anhui province have caused an outcry among Chinese netizens.

Authorities in Anhi's Fengyang county forced a 33-year-old woman surnamed Lu to abort the fetus after they accused her of exceeding her childbirth quota,  according to U.S.-based rights group ChinaAid, which interviewed her husband.

"I am her husband," Lu's husband said in a brief telephone interview with the the Christian rights group.

"[The forced abortion] happened on Friday. My wife isn't doing too badly, physically," he said.

"The government has already stepped in to mediate the matter, and they are discussing it now, but we didn't get a lawyer yet," Lu's husband said.

An official who answered the phone at the Fengyang county government offices declined to comment, however.

"I don't know about this," the official said.

Calls to the Fengyang county family planning bureau went unanswered during office hours on Tuesday.

Under China's one-child policy, forced abortions are common, as local officials strive to meet set quotas and impose fines for "excess births."

But experts say the rules governing "excess birth" are unclear and often abused by local authorities.

Photos on social media sites

Photographs showing Lu's fully formed male baby that was expelled from her womb on Sunday after being killed by injection circulated on China's social media sites, causing horror and outrage among netizens.

"In China, any baby that hasn't yet been born isn't counted as a life," said Guangzhou doctor Hu Tao in an interview on Tuesday.

"But from an ethical point of view, if the baby has already formed, it doesn't matter how old it is; it is a human life," he said.

"To abort it when it has already developed is tantamount to murder."

Hu said a seven-month fetus was already a fully formed infant, that could survive outside the womb under the right conditions.

A netizen identified as @98zhongjilongqishi commented: "What had this baby done wrong, to be tortured to death in such an unimaginable way?"

"Please retweet, so we can pursue who is responsible together."

Xu Xiang, founder of the rights website "I Want Justice," said that China's draconian family planning regime highlighted divisions between government and people, and between rich and poor.

"Most people at the grass-roots of society are against it, while people higher up the social ladder are not," Xu said.

"They have ways and means of having a second or a third child if they want to," he said. "Officials often have kids with their mistress or their lover, and those kids immediately get their household registration papers."

Fines

Xu said that China's richest people can afford to pay the heavy fines for having more than one child.

"A fine of 20,000 or 30,000 yuan (U.S. $3,220 or U.S. $4,830) is chicken-feed to them," he said. "But for ordinary Chinese, it's hard enough just managing to get married and have a kid at all...and the family planning policies for them are very intrusive."

Xu said there was a huge groundswell of public opinion against forced abortions because a few photographs had made it onto the Internet in recent years.

"This will just be talked about for a couple of days, but no-one will dare to take a stand...because anyone who does with then be open to revenge attacks [from officials]," he said.

ChinaAid said in a statement on its website that it was monitoring further developments.

"ChinaAid calls on all people of conscience worldwide to stand in unity to strongly condemn this act and to urge the Chinese government to punish the perpetrators and abolish its forcibly enforced family planning policy," it said.

Last June, Shaanxi-based Feng Jianmei was forced to terminate her pregnancy at eight months, sparking global outrage.

After a graphic photo of Feng and her dead baby posted online went viral, the government launched an investigation and had officials, who had demanded a 40,000 yuan (U.S. $6,440) fine from Feng, apologize to her.

Feng's family prepared to sue but settled out of court, saying they were afraid of further persecution and wanted to return to a normal life.

Another woman, Pan Chunyan, told RFA in June that local family planning officials in Fujian province had forced her to get an abortion in her eighth month of pregnancy in April.

Despite official investigation into and apologies over Feng's case, experts say forced abortions have been the norm for decades under China's draconian one-child policy.

According to recent official data, 31 provinces and cities collect totally up to near 28 billion yuan (U.S. $4.4 billion) a year from enforcing the one-child policy.

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin service, and by Pan Jiaqing for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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