All Girls Allowed (AGA) reported the end of forced abortion in China Sept. 12, but two other organizations -- Women's Rights Without Frontiers (WRWF) and the Population Research Institute (PRI) -- disputed that assertion days later. All three groups work to combat China's coercive "one-child" population control program instituted in 1979.
AGA said Beijing family planning officials had ordered a ban on forced late-term abortions and sterilizations. It based its report on two documents from family planning entities and statements by national and local officials.
Wang Xia, director of the National Population and Family Planning Commission (NPFPC), called on family planning enforcement authorities to "absolutely stop performing late-stage abortions" and only "guide people to do family planning voluntarily," according to the AGA report. AGA acknowledged Wang refused to comment on forced abortions early in pregnancy but concluded "her insistence on using only voluntary measures indicates that forced abortion should not occur at any stage of pregnancy."
Wang's order "is awesome progress," AGA founder Chai Ling said in a written statement.
AGA's announcement is premature, the leaders of WRWF and PRI said in Sept. 17 news releases.
Her organization "has no doubt that forced abortions continue to happen at this very moment in China," WRWF President Reggie Littlejohn said. "When the message goes out that this is no longer happening, it undermines the movement to stop it."
PRI President Steven Mosher said, "Women continue to be arrested, aborted and sterilized against their will at this very moment."
Mosher uncovered the forced-abortion practices of the "one-child" policy in 1980 while he was a Stanford University doctoral student in China.
The Chinese regime has said for more than three decades the "one-child" policy is "entirely voluntary," he said. "his assertion of 'voluntarism' is no more true now than it was when I saw women who were five, seven and even nine months pregnant held down on the operating table and aborted."
Mosher has no doubts China's family planning panel issued the document AGA cited, but it will do no more to stop forced abortion than did a 2002 Chinese law that supposedly protected citizens from coercion by family planning officials, he said.
Both Mosher and Littlejohn said the documents and statements from family planning officials are attempts to overcome bad publicity in recent months, especially a report of a mother without a birth permit whose baby was forcibly aborted when she was seven months pregnant. The story -- accompanied by a photo of Feng Jianmei and her aborted daughter in bed next to her -- gained global attention online in June.
"Until proven otherwise, we believe that any rhetoric generated by the Chinese Communist Party ostensibly banning forced abortion is propaganda designed to deflect the heat generated" by Feng's forced abortion, Littlejohn said.
"We need to keep the pressure on, not celebrate propaganda designed to take the pressure off," she said.
Mosher said he expected Beijing "would engage in exactly this kind of damage control."
"The Chinese Party-State, which is responsible for such criminal acts, has lost face, and is now trying recover," he said.
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. Couples who violate the policy face the possibility of not only forced abortions or sterilizations but of large fines, job loss and imprisonment.
The policy has resulted not only in many reports of authorities carrying out forced abortions and sterilizations, but there also have been accounts of infanticide. It has helped produce a dramatic gender imbalance because of the Chinese preference for sons.
In a follow-up news release Sept. 17, AGA acknowledged an "uphill battle" remains to overturn the "one-child" policy but said Wang's call to stop forced late-term abortions is "major progress" that is "worth reporting."
"It's a step. It's the beginning of the end," according to AGA. "It means, ultimately, that God is answering the devoted prayers of many."
AGA remains "as committed as ever" to uncovering forced and coerced abortions, as well as trying to deliver mothers from violence against their babies and them, it said.
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.
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