The Reality of China’s One-Child Policy: A Forced Abortion at Eight Months

October 22, 2010 - 5:46 AM

China children, one-child

China says its one-child policy, initiated in 1979, has helped to reduce the country’s population by more than 400 million people. (Photo: Shanghai Population and Family Planning Commission)

(CNSNews.com) – Critics of Beijing’s “one-child policy” say a televised clip showing a young mother enduring a forced abortion at eight months’ gestation calls for a worldwide response.

According to the report by al-Jazeera television, heavily pregnant Xiao Ai Ying was forced to undergo an abortion at a hospital in the southeastern coastal city of Xiamen because she and her husband, Luo Yan Qua, already have their permitted one child – a 10-year-old daughter.

“There were many men surrounding my wife,” Luo told a reporter outside. “They held her arms behind her back, pushed her head against the wall, kicked her stomach and I don’t know if they were trying to give her a miscarriage.”

The report said Xiao’s unborn baby was then given a lethal injection. She was filmed waiting to deliver the dead child.

“I have felt the baby moving round and round in my belly,” Xiao said. “Can you imagine how I feel now?”

Outside, Luo pondered the effect of the tragedy on their existing child.

“She’s been feeling my wife’s belly as it has grown larger and larger over the months,” he said. “My daughter says, ‘I will have a little brother soon.’ I don’t know how I can possibly explain to her what has happened.”

Introduced in the late 1970s, China’s birth limitation policy generally restricts couples to having one child. Exceptions are made in certain cases, including one that allows ethnic minorities or couples living in rural areas to have a second child if their firstborn is a girl.

The policy is enforced through large fines – known euphemistically as “social compensation fees” – threats of job loss or demotion and other punishments and disincentives. But human rights researchers have also recorded the use of even more troubling measures, including involuntary sterilization and forced abortion.

China’s communist government says the policy has been an essential factor in the country’s economic development, having successfully “prevented” 400 million births since 1979.

Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers and a leading critic of China’s one-child policy, called the video clip “heartbreaking.”

“This video is further evidence that China’s coercive family planning practices cause more violence against women than any other official policy on earth,” she said Thursday.

“Thousands of women are being dragged out of their homes, thrown into ‘family planning’ jail cells, strapped down to tables and forced to abort pregnancies that they want, even up to the ninth month,” she added. “Forced abortion and forced sterilization are China’s war on women.”

‘A baby brother she will never meet’

Chai Ling, a U.S.-based Chinese dissident and founder of an organization called All Girls Allowed, said the video clip showed “the heartrending personal tragedy caused by the brutal enforcement of China’s one-child policy.”

“We urge all people and leaders of the free world to view this video and hear the cries of the parents and this unborn child who was simply murdered,” Ling said in a statement. “How long will the world turn a blind eye to this inhumane policy?”

Al-Jazeera said it was unusual that the incident occurred in one of China’s most modern cities, saying that forced abortions sometimes occurred in “remote areas.”

Littlejohn disagreed that the incident was unusual. She and Ling both pointed to Chinese government-reported figures of more than 13 million abortions carried out each – more than 35,000 a day.

“How many of these are forced?” Littlejohn wondered.

She noted that the fines levied on couples who violate the policy could be 10 times as high as an annual salary in China. “Most people cannot afford to pay these fines. What’s left for them? Forced abortion or forced sterilization.”

“Our hearts are broken again,” said Ling, “For this family, for the suffering mother, father, and their innocent daughter, who is about to learn the cruel truth of the one-child policy through the fate of her baby brother whom she will never meet.”

Ling was a student leader during the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy movement before escaping to the U.S. via Hong Kong.

She founded All Girls Allowed over the summer. The organization says its mission is “to restore life, value, and dignity to girls and mothers, and to reveal the injustice of China’s one-child policy.”

In 2002, the Bush administration withheld federal funding for the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), citing evidence that its work in China supported the coercive elements in the population-control policy.

The move was in line with U.S. legislation prohibiting funds for any agency that “supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”

UNFPA, which denied the claims, lost a total of $244 million in the ensuing years.

While campaigning for the presidency, Senator Barack Obama promised to restore the funding, a pledge he kept soon after taking office.

The head of China’s National Population and Family Planning Commission announced last month that the 30 year-old policy would continue “in the coming decades.”

A two-minute Al-Jazeera videoclip (not graphic) can be seen here.