Forced Abortion in China Sparks Controversy

Feng Jianmei of China’s Shaanxi Province was forced by local officials to abort her second pregnancy this June after violating China’s strict one-child policy. After being unable to pay over $6,000 in fines for her second pregnancy, Jianmei was abducted and held for three days by local officials. She was then given an injection against her will that induced labor and forced her to deliver a stillborn fetus. Few local officials have been punished, but Jiyuan is seeking government compensation. The couple was placed under government surveillance after the forced abortion, and Jiyuan went into hiding late last month after he was stopped from seeking legal assistance.

The incident has sparked a discussion about reproductive justice and China’s family planning policy. In a letter to the editor in the New York Times, Center for Reproductive Rights President Nancy Northup wrote, “Tragically, around the world governments still deprive women, particularly poor and marginalized women, of control over their reproductive capacity. Romany women in Slovakia are forcibly sterilized for racist reasons. State hospitals in Chile have routinely sterilized H.I.V positive women without their consent. The appalling list goes on, and the human toll is incalculable. Every woman must be guaranteed the right to dignity and dominion over her own reproductive life. Any government that fails to do so is guilty of human rights abuses, for which it must be held to account.”

The one-child policy was instated in 1979 by the Communist Party in the wake of China’s population boom. As reported by NPR, former family planning official Zhang Erli said last month in a statement targeted to women who have had to terminate pregnancies under the policy, “I felt sorry for our Chinese women. I feel guilty. Chinese women have made huge sacrifices. A responsible government should repay them.”

Sources: New York Times 6/26/2012; Los Angeles Times 6/27/2012; New York Times 7/4/2012; NPR 7/5/2012; Washington Post 7/6/2012

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