BEIJING, China – A pregnant woman in south China was detained, beaten and forced to have an abortion just a month before her due date because the baby would have violated the country’s one-child limit, her husband said Thursday.
Construction worker Luo Yanquan said his wife was taken kicking and screaming from their home by more than a dozen people on Oct. 10 and detained in a clinic for three days by family planning officials, then taken to a hospital and injected with a drug that killed her baby.
Family planning officials told the couple they weren’t allowed to have the child because they already have a 9-year-old daughter, Luo said.
For the last 30 years, China has limited most urban couples to just one child in a bid to curb population growth and conserve its limited resources. China has the world’s largest population, with more than 1.3 billion people. Couples that flout the rules face hefty fines, seizure of their property and loss of their jobs.
The case is an extreme example of the coercive measures Chinese officials sometimes use to comply with the strict family planning regulations. Though illegal, police and judicial authorities often look the other way when forced abortion cases are reported and the heavily censored state media shy away from such news.
But in recent years, victims have begun to speak out about their ordeals with the help of the Internet and text messaging. Aiding them are social campaigners and lawyers who have documented cases of forced late-term abortions. Similar abuses have been reported in Hebei and Shandong provinces and in the Guangxi region.
An official with the Siming district family planning commission, which oversees Luo’s neighbourhood, confirmed there was a record of Luo’s wife, Xiao Aiying, undergoing an abortion recently but said the procedure was voluntary and that she was about six months instead of eight months pregnant at the time. Like many Chinese bureaucrats, he refused to give his name.
China bans forced abortions, but doesn’t prohibit or clearly define late-term abortion.
The Siming official said Xiao’s husband had approved the abortion, a claim Luo denied.
“I never signed anything. No one in our family did,” he said by telephone from Xiamen. “I called the police but they said family planning issues weren’t their responsibility. I want to sue, but lawyers I’ve asked here say they can’t help me and the media won’t report on our case.”
Luo set up a blog last week to let people know what had happened to his wife, and satellite broadcaster Al-Jazeera posted a report about the couple’s case on its website Wednesday.
Photos on the blog show a pained-looking, and clearly pregnant, Xiao sitting on a hospital bed after the injection but before the baby was stillborn 40 hours later. Other images show a large purple bruise on her arm and scratches on her leg, which Luo said were caused when family planning officials hit and kicked her as she struggled to get away.
Ordinary Chinese reacted with anger and disgust to Luo’s online account, posting comments that called the family planning officials cruel and inhuman.
Xiao delivered the dead baby on Oct. 14 but remains hospitalized and may require emergency surgery to remove pieces of placenta still in her uterus, Luo said. The couple, both 36, were not informed of the sex of the aborted baby, Luo said.
A man who answered the phone at the obstetrics ward of the Siming No. 1 Hospital confirmed that Xiao was still a patient there. He refused to provide more details or give his name.
Telephone calls to the press office of the National Population and Family Planning Commission in Beijing rang unanswered Thursday.