Cao's story took a different route. It got out earlier through a network of concerned locals savvy enough to alert non profit organizations dedicated to stopping forced abortions with ties in the U.S. government and international press.
Also on Monday, in Washington D.C., State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland acknowledged the case of Cao Ruyi.
"We've seen the reports that a Chinese woman is being detained and possibly pressured into a forced abortion by Chinese family planning authorities after purportedly violating China's one-child policy," she told reporters during a press briefing. "We have reached out to the authorities in Beijing to ask about this issue."
Nuland reiterated that the U.S. strongly opposes "all aspects of China's coercive birth limitation policies."
Cao's story started with a knock on the door last Thursday. With her husband away, she says there was nothing she could do to resist the "thugs" who came to take her to the hospital. She was placed in a room with four guards blocking any chance for escape. Her husband was eventually allowed to join her, but his arguments were ignored. Overcrowding may have helped her that day. Cao says she was told there was no bed available. She was "released" to a Family Planning hotel to wait for a free space.
Two additional factors likely worked in her favor. She was able to alert friends and family to her plight and she happened to be in a capital city, where news travels fast.
As Cao's day came to an end in China it was morning in Washington D.C. The human rights activist network based in the U.S. and tipped off by sources in China went to work. For two particular organizations, All Girls Allowed and Women's Rights in China, it was a crisis that demanded expertise in managing exactly how to pinpoint the most effective pressure points within China and to somehow hit them the right way.
By Friday, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., had sent a letter to local Changsha officials. The Texas-based group ChinaAid published his appeal online. Smith has been a vocal opponent of human rights abuse against women in China. Most recently, he worked with ChinaAid founder Bob Fu to lobby Congress to intervene on behalf of the blind activist Cheng Guangcheng.
Smith addressed his letter to, among others, the "respectable leaders of the Kaifu District Family Planning Office" and condemned the actions taken against Cao Ruyi and called for the guaranteed safety of her unborn baby. She was released in the next 48 hours.
Chai Ling, the founder of the Christian activist organization All Girls Allowed and former student leader in Tiananmen Square, tells ABC News that according to Cao and her husband if they have the baby they will be forced to pay a "social burden fee" of nearly $24,000. This fee, an astronomical sum for the average Chinese citizen, is "required" for the child to be granted basic citizen rights such as access to health care and education.
Cao doubts she will ever be able to come up with that kind of money.
"She is too afraid to borrow the money," says Chai Ling, "because she has no idea how she could pay it back." Nor does she have any guarantee the government won't ask for more money in the future. "That is the psychological pressure she is under," says Chai Ling. "It becomes a money making operation for the government."