Warning: this story may be distressing to some readers.
This woman’s name is Feng Jianmei. She was seven months pregnant when the Government forced her to have an abortion two weeks ago.
Twenty-seven-year-old Feng is a victim of China’s one-child policy, which restricts the number of children people can have in an effort to control country’s growing population, which is now up to 1.3 billion.
She already has a 5-year-old daughter and so her second pregnancy was considered illegal. The Chinese Communist Party enforce the one-child-per-couple law through birth control, heavy fines and the threat of violence.
But in Feng’s case, that threat became reality.
Last week she had her head covered, her legs beaten and was dragged to a vehicle. She told local media that she was taken to hospital where she was given injections to stop the fetus growing and force her into labour.
Feng and her husband, Deng Ji Yuan could not afford the $6,300 fine for a second child because Deng’s mother “needed money for cancer treatment” and so forced abortion was their only option.
As if that wasn’t horrifying enough, it was also a crime. Chinese law prohibits abortions beyond six months. So even though Feng’s pregnancy was ‘illegal’, what the authorities did to her was also against the law.
Feng’s sister took this photo (and another more graphic image which we have chosen not to publish but you can view it here if you wish to absorb the full horror of Feng’s situation), which has now gone viral around the world.
The Washington Post reports that while previously Feng’s forced abortion would have received little public recognition, the limited access Chinese nationals have to social media has now finally allowed women like Feng to tell their stories.
As of Thursday (June 14), comments on Feng’s abortion neared 1 million on the Twitter-like microblog site Sina Weibo. Many of the comments were calls to relax the restrictions on births that have been enforced for more than three decades.
The government’s first reaction to the outcry over Feng was that the abortion was merely routine law enforcement. A statement posted Monday on the government website of Zhenping County in Shaanxi province stated that officials, “according to the law, carried out the termination of the out-of-policy second pregnancy of Feng Jianmei” on June 2.
As the fury grew, a preliminary investigation was conducted, after which the government admitted Thursday that it was wrong. The late-term abortion was a “serious violation” of national policies, “damaged the image of family planning work and caused extremely harmful social impact,” said a statement by the Shaanxi Population and Family Planning Commission.
Three officials were suspended Thursday, the China News Service reported. The city mayor delivered $785 as compensation for the loss to Feng’s husband, Deng Jiyuan. It may take much more to calm the storm.
The United States have reaffirmed their opposition to the one-child policy just recently, after activists reported that a five-month pregnant woman was facing a forced abortion.
The case is a tragic one for Feng and her family but it also raises broader issues around the tightly controlled media in China. While access to mainstream social media sites like Facebook and Twitter is banned and the internet and wider media tightly controlled by the government, alternative social media outlets are increasingly popping up so that the Chinese can tell their stories to the world.
Our heartfelt sympathy to Feng and her family….