Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-Chief
Last Modified: 20:53 PM EDT, 27 June 2012
SHAANXI PROVINCE, China – Feng Jianmei, 23, fought and lost the battle against the Chinese government and its one-child policy. Unlike other Chinese dissidents who risk torture and imprisonment, Feng paid an excruciating physical and psychological price for her defiance while she waited 36 hours for her body to abort her dead fetus after being forcibly injected with a chemical.
But it was her seven month old child who paid the ultimate price after experiencing an unknown amount of suffering. Abortion is a difficult and personal choice for any woman; however, in most countries legal options for aborting a fetus past the first trimester are rarely undertaken unless the mother’s life is in danger. It would be nearly impossible to find a reputable doctor to perform this procedure simply because the family is unable to bear the financial burden.
In Feng’s case, she was forced to abort her child not because of any medical reason, but because of financial constraint. What makes this case even more reprehensible is the fact that the child was most likely viable and at seven months could have survived outside of her womb and if the family had chosen could have potentially been put up for adoption.
According to the Economist, “Breaching China’s one-child policy carries a severe financial penalty. Parents in Shanghai pay between three and six times the city’s average yearly income in what are called “social-maintenance fees” (SMF) for extra children. He Yafu, an independent scholar and critic of the one-child policy, estimates the government has collected over 2 trillion yuan ($314 billion) in SMFs since 1980.
Failure to pay the fine carries grave repercussions. The second ‘black child’ cannot get a household registration, a hukou, which carries with it such basic rights as education. But backlash can be more severe. When Ms Guo’s brother refused to pay his SMF, family-planning officials destroyed his house, pulling down the walls and wrecking the furniture.” (The Economist)
Unfortunately, the Feng’s family was not even allowed the opportunity to live with the consequences of their obvious decision to have the child despite the policy. Feng was forced to undergo an abortion on June 2 simply because her family could not afford a 40,000 yuan ($6,300) fine for having a second child.
In response to the forced abortion, the family posted photographs of Feng lying in her bed next to the dead child minutes after she aborted. Though this is not the first time that a family has chosen to defy China’s one-child policy, but it is the first time the ramifications of the one-child policy has been escalated to international attention. Usually, parents who find themselves in the untenable position of the prospect of bearing another child without the financial means to pay the requisite fees opted for an abortion, but the choice was not brutally imposed upon them.
In the past any resistance to this policy was quickly and easily squelched by the government as anti-China propaganda. However, in the case of Feng Jianmei, and despite attempts by the government to persuade the press that her assertions were nothing more than a hoax and publicity stunt; the viral nature of social media where the photos were posted has made it difficult for them to discredit this family’s claims.
In light of this, the Ankang city government has openly apologized to the Feng family; suspended three officials involved in the case, and promised to initiate an immediate investigation into the matter.
As if the execution of her child was not enough, the hospital in which she was forced to undergo the abortion has apparently been instructed to detain her despite numerous requests by Feng and her family for her immediate release so that she can continue to recuperate at home.
To date this has not occurred and according to news sources, Feng and her family are under immense pressure to retract their statements to the foreign media.
- China abortion couple ‘hounded’ (bbc.co.uk)
- China punishes abortion officials (bbc.co.uk)
- Forced Abortion: Feng Jianmei’s Partner Forced into Hiding in China by Vigilantes (ibtimes.com)
- Husband in China forced abortion ‘missing’: family (smh.com.au)
- Chinese Family in Forced Abortion Case Still Under Pressure (nytimes.com)