Yunnan Woman's Late-Term Abortion Dilemma Sparks Public Outcry

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A Chinese mother looks at her newborn baby at a hospital in Shenyang city, northeast China's Liaoning province, March 20, 2014.
A Chinese mother looks at her newborn baby at a hospital in Shenyang city, northeast China's Liaoning province, March 20, 2014.

A pregnant woman in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan has sparked a public outcry after posting a despairing tweet saying she was being pressured into terminating a pregnancy at eight months or face her husband's loss of employment.

"I won't let the doctor inject my baby with poison. I would rather crash my car," a 41-year-old woman, who identified herself only by her surname, Chen, wrote on the Twitter-like service Sina Weibo in the early hours of Monday morning.

Chen, who lives in Yunnan's Chuxiong city, later said via the WeChat messaging app that her husband had been informed that he would lose his job if the couple refused to abort the child.

"My husband's employers know about my pregnancy, and they brought some people to our home," Chen said. "They want us to kill our baby so as to save his job."

Chen's tweet sparked an online campaign, with netizens calling local officials to inquire about the case, which would involve an illegal abortion.

Chen also appeared fearful of reprisals over the amount of public attention her dilemma had generated.

"My husband's here, and he doesn't want me to take this call," she said when contacted by phone on Monday. "We are afraid."

Asked if officials or police were also present, she said: "That's correct," before hanging up the phone.

Later calls to Chen's phone resulted in a switched off message.

Morally wrong

An obstetrician based in Beijing says any abortion carried out after six months is morally wrong.

"By eight months, the fetus has already become a person, and nobody, not even the baby's parents, has the right to end its life," the doctor, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

An officer who answered the phone at the Chuxiong police department declined to comment on the case.

"The city police department doesn't give interviews," the officer said.

But an official who answered the phone at the Chuxiong regional family planning and population committee said they were unable to locate Chen to discuss her pregnancy.

"We really don't know who this person is or where they are from," the official said. "We can't find her tweet and we can't find out her identity."

"We saw her tweet but we can't find her," the official said. "How do we get in touch with her?"

In the first significant easing of the one-child policy in nearly 30 years, Beijing announced at the end of 2013 that couples will be allowed to have two children if one of the parents is an only child.

Previously, most parents were restricted to having one child, although the political and financial elite were able to afford the financial penalties, and often have larger families.

Urban couples were permitted a second child if both parents do not have siblings, while rural couples were allowed to have two children if their first-born was a girl.

Unexpected pregnancy at 41

But Chen doesn't fall into that category, and much of the public response to her case is linked to using the loss of public-sector employment in addition to existing fines to ensure compliance with family planning quotas.

Chen told the Associated Press that she had unexpectedly got pregnant earlier this year, at the age of 41.

The agency quoted Wen Xueping, a family planning official in Yunnan's Chuxiong prefecture, as saying that the couple will not be forced to abort the baby, but said they were likely looking to whip up publicity to avoid the consequences of breaking the rules.

Current family planning rules state that no abortions should be forced, and that none should be carried out after six months.

But experts say forced abortions have been the norm for decades under China's draconian one-child policy, as local officials strive to meet set quotas and impose fines for "excess births."

In June 2012, 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 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.

Another woman, Pan Chunyan, reported earlier that local family planning officials in Fujian province had forced her to get an abortion in her eighth month of pregnancy in April 2012.

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.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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