This week in China two similar cases on the issue of forced abortions, which the U.S. deems an extreme human rights abuse, are unfolding with potentially very different outcomes.
In the first case, the world was unaware of the abuse as it unfolded and nothing was done to stop it.
In the second case, the U.S. acknowledged awareness of events as they were unfolding. Whether that made a difference or not is hard to tell, but the victim has won at least temporary respite.
On Monday in Zhenping City, located in China's Shanxi Province, a young husband worried about the fragile state of his wife, Feng Jianmei. According to Deng Ji Yuan, on June 1 local authorities forced Feng to have an abortion. He says his wife was seven months pregnant at the time. Graphic photos posted online by a Chinese activist group show what appears to be Feng in a hospital bed immediately following the procedure. Next to her is the small, lifeless body of her aborted baby.
On the same day in Changsha, the capital city of Hunan province, another mother felt enormous relief. Cao Ruyi, who says she is five months pregnant, is safe if only for the time being. Her relief follows an anxious few days.
She was detained by authorities. In an interview with ABC News, Cao described how Family Planning Police dragged her from her home to a hospital for an abortion. She says she was released only after signing a contract promising to abort her child by Saturday, June 16.
Each woman already has one child. Cao and Deng, Feng's husband, both said that because of this, according to Family Planning authorities they are in violation of China's one-child policy. How much these couples want or can support a second child has no bearing on the rule of law.
News of Feng's forced abortion started to spread throughout the activist community within China and beyond its borders. Xinhua News Agency ran a short account of her story. A response on the Zhenping Population and Family Planning Board website said that the woman's pregnancy was outside the rules of the one-child policy. Through "thought counseling" by the town cadres, the woman "agreed to end her pregnancy through an abortive operation."
According to the report in Xinhua, an entity whose English name translates as the town's "Birth Control Station" realized that Feng was three months pregnant in mid-March. According to Article 27 of the Shanxi Province Population and Family Planning Ordinance, Feng was required to apply for permission to have a second child.
According to officials in the Xinhua report, Feng was encouraged several times to submit the relevant documents. This included her hukou (the all important government identification of provenance which determines where one has rights to education and health care), proof of housing and "marriage and procreation." She reportedly failed to do so. Officials from the couples' home provinces concluded they were not eligible to have a second child. Official records show she had the procedure on June 2.
In addition to the report in Xinhua, the Global Times, which is published in Hong Kong, wrote an article criticizing the government for aborting a fetus over six months and suggested six months should be the cutoff.