Accounts of forced abortions in China only 'tip of the iceberg'

Baptist Press
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Posted: Jul 12, 2012 5:22 PM
Accounts of forced abortions in China only 'tip of the iceberg'
WASHINGTON (BP) -- Recent reports of women undergoing late-term abortions against their will are "only the tip of the iceberg" of the forced procedures that occur daily in China, a Christian advocate for human rights has told a congressional panel.

The new accounts of forced abortions have brought China's coercive, "one-child," population control policy to the world's attention in a way that is possibly unprecedented since it was instituted in 1979.

The story and photo of Feng Jianmei and her forcibly aborted daughter gained global attention online in June. Family planning officials kidnapped Feng, who was seven months pregnant but had no birth permit, June 2 in Shaanxi province and aborted her child when her family did not pay a fine. Authorities placed the body of her dead daughter next to her in bed. A Chinese dissident posted an account, plus a photo of the devastated mother and her dead daughter, online, and it went viral when the news broke June 12 in the West, according to testimony at a July 9 hearing before a House of Representatives subcommittee.

In written testimony for the panel, Bob Fu of the ChinaAid Association said Feng's "tragedy is repeated hundreds and thousands of times each day in China."

China's population control program generally limits couples in urban areas to one child and those in rural areas to two, if the first is a girl. Parents in cities may have second babies if the husband and wife are both only children. The policy has resulted in many reports of authorities carrying out forced abortions and sterilizations, as well as accounts of infanticide. It has helped produce a dramatic gender imbalance because of the Chinese preference for sons.

The Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights received accounts by Fu and Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women's Rights Without Frontiers, regarding other recently reported coerced abortions:

-- Hu Jia's baby was forcibly aborted at nearly eight months June 19 in Hubei province, according to a major Chinese newspaper, the Southern Metropolis Daily.

-- Zhan Wen Fang, also of Hubei province, came forward to report her baby was forcibly aborted at nine months in 2008.

-- Cao Ruyi of Hunan province was taken June 6 by family planning officials in an attempt to abort her five-month-old unborn child. International pressure helped bring about a reduction in the fine officials were seeking for her unpermitted pregnancy, enabling her to leave the hospital where her baby was to be aborted. Yet, the threat to her unborn child continues.

Another mother, Pan Chunyan of Fujian province, underwent a forced abortion April 6 when she was eight months pregnant, according to a report by BBC News based on an account in the South China Morning Post.

A victim of the coercive policy provided testimony to the subcommittee by phone from Thailand, according to The Washington Times. Speaking through an interpreter, Guo Yanling described the forced abortion she underwent eight months into her pregnancy in 1995 while living in Guangxi province. Her voice faded into sobs, and she was unable to complete her testimony, The Times reported.

The result of China's population control policy is "a nightmarish 'brave new world' with no precedent in human history, where women are psychologically wounded, girls fall victim to sex-selective abortion (in some provinces 140 boys are born for every 100 girls), and most children grow up without brothers or sisters, aunts or uncles or cousins," said subcommittee Chairman Chris Smith of New Jersey in written remarks for the hearing.

Critics inside and outside China have addressed the "one-child" policy in the days since the forced-abortion cases were reported, Littlejohn said in her testimony:

-- Researchers with China's government-affiliated Development Research Center and 15 high-profile Chinese scholars called for reform of the population control policy in statements published July 3 and 5, respectively.

-- The European Parliament approved a resolution July 5 condemning Feng's forced procedure, as well as coercive abortion and sterilization globally. It also called for assurances its funds do not support such programs.

-- The U.S. State Department asked Beijing about the reports, a spokeswoman said in mid-June and reaffirmed the United States strongly opposes "all aspects of China's coercive birth limitation policies."

-- Abortion-rights leader Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, criticized China's forced abortion program as a violation of human rights in a July 4 letter to The New York Times.

Among Littlejohn and Fu's policy recommendations to the subcommittee were: (1) Congressional approval of a resolution condemning forced abortion and sterilization in China and calling on the regime to end its coercive population control program; (2) enactment of a law authorizing the president to deny entry into this country to those who have participated in enforcement of the "one-child" program or other human rights abuses in China, and (3) cut funds for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation if they are found to be collaborating with China's coercive program.

President Obama reinstituted support for the UNFPA in 2009 after President Bush withheld funding during the final seven years of his presidency because of his administration's finding that the agency aided China's program.

Xinhua, China's government-operated news service, reported July 11 the township in which Feng lives reached an out-of-court settlement with her husband and her in the amount of about $11,000 in American money.

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Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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