Chinese Man Sues Wife For Denying Him Right To Fatherhood

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:11 PM EDT

Pacific Rim Bureau ( - A Chinese man is suing his wife for violating his right to have a child by having an abortion.

Under a new law which puts a husband's right to have a child on a par with his wife's, a man identified only as Li has brought the case against his wife, known as He, after she aborted their baby late last year.

Officials at the Fangshan District People's Court in Beijing said that He fell pregnant 18 months after the couple married, and decided to have an abortion despite Li's strong protests, China Daily reports.

Li argues that her action infringed his right to become a father. The case has now been accepted for a full hearing.

China's parliament, the National People's Congress, late last year passed a family planning law codifying the government's controversial "one child policy," which critics say has resulted in forced sterilizations and abortions.

The law also gives all men and women the right to have a child, placing the man's right on an equal footing with that of his wife, and holds both spouses in a marriage equally responsible for family planning.

Critics, who said they could be seen to contradict other laws, such as the one legalizing abortion, slammed these provisions.

China Family Planning Association vice-president Yang Kuifu said the woman should have the right to choose to have an abortion. By forcing his wife to have a child, the man would be breaking a law protecting women's rights.

Yang said couples should reach consensus on the issue.

Legal expert Prof. Zhang Xianyu of the East China University said the Supreme People's Court should give a more detailed explanation of how the law protecting a man's right to have a child should operate, China Daily said.

Other experts agreed that different views within a marriage should be settled by "consultation" between the spouses, in a spirit of mutual respect.

Pro-lifers have condemned the family planning law. It formalizes a 20-year-old policy under which government officials have been accused of forcing women to have abortions if they exceed their quota of one child, or in some circumstances, two children.

The policy has also led to a gender ratio imbalance, as more unwanted baby girls are being aborted. Critics say it denies couples the internationally-recognized right to choose the number and spacing of their children.

State officials have sought to justify the policy by saying it has helped prevent a population explosion and widespread starvation. Some 300 million births have been "prevented" over the past two decades.

Conservative lawmakers in the U.S. have urged President Bush to withhold $34 million in funding earmarked for the United Nations Population Fund for 2002, because of suspected UNFPA complicity in China's family planning policies.

E-mail a news tip to Patrick Goodenough.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow