The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that women forced to undergo abortions in other countries are eligible for asylum in the US. The decision was made in the case of a Chinese couple, Li Zhen and her partner, Zi Zhi Tang, who was forced to undergo an abortion in 1980 because the two were not married. Eleven years later, Tang’s employer, a Chinese construction company, stationed the couple in Guam. In 2002, immigration officials instructed them to return to China because their visa had expired. The couple then sought asylum due to the persecution they suffered when the Chinese government required they have an abortion.
The couple appealed the decision of an immigration judge, who had ruled that the abortion was not forced because Li Zhen did not go into hiding after receiving a notice that she must terminate her pregnancy. The appeals court overturned that decision and sided with the couple, ruling that an official order from the government to terminate a pregnancy classifies as “force.”
The three-judge panel at the California Circuit Court ruled that victims of forced abortion must be granted the same protection that the US extends to victims of forced sterilization, which qualifies as grounds for asylum already. “Both forms of persecution have serious, ongoing effect,” the court wrote, according to the BBC. “We see no way to distinguish between the victims of forced sterilization and the victims of forced abortion.”