WASHINGTON -- One of the few incontrovertible assertions one can reasonably make is that no one supports forced abortion.
Yet, coerced abortions, as well as involuntary sterilizations, are commonplace in China, Beijing's protestations notwithstanding. While the Chinese Communist Party insists that abortions are voluntary under the nation's one-child policy, electronic documentation recently smuggled out of the country tells a different story.
Congressional members of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission heard some of that story Tuesday, two days before President Obama was slated to leave for Asia, including China, to discuss economic issues. Among evidence provided by two human rights organizations, ChinaAid and Women's Rights Without Frontiers, were tales of pregnant women essentially being hunted down and forced to submit to surgery or induced labor.
Reggie Littlejohn, founder and president of the Frontiers group, told the commission that China's one-child policy "causes more violence against women and girls than any other official policy on earth."
I met Littlejohn for breakfast the day before the hearing. A petite wife and mother -- as well as a Yale-educated lawyer -- Littlejohn gave up her intellectual property practice in San Francisco following a life-altering illness to become a full-time activist for Chinese women. She is remarkably buoyant considering the knowledge she has absorbed. Action, she says, is her way of coping with the unconscionable.
Here's the question Littlejohn insists we consider: What really happens to a woman who doesn't have a "birth permit" and has an "out of plan" pregnancy?
The answer is simple and brutal: A woman pregnant without permission has to surrender her unborn child to government enforcers, no matter what the stage of fetal development.
Late-term abortions are problematic, but the Chinese are nothing if not efficient. On one Web site for Chinese obstetricians and gynecologists, docs recently traded tips in a dispassionate discussion titled: "What if the infant is still alive after induced labor?" ChinaAid provided a translation of a thread regarding an eight-month-old fetus that survived the procedure.
"Xuexia" wrote: "Actually, you should have punctured the fetus' skull." Another poster, "Damohuyang," wrote that most late-term infants died during induced labor, some lived and "would be left in trash cans. Some of them could still live for one to two days."