Three Chinese officials have been suspended and the government has apologized to a young Chinese woman, Feng Jianmei, after she was forced to abort her child seven months into the pregnancy due to China's one-child limit law. Graphic images of the mother and the lifeless body of the baby sparked public uproar when they surfaced online.
On Monday in Zhenping City, located in China's Shanxi Province, Feng's husband, Deng Ji Yuan, worried about the fragile state of his wife, who was in the hospital after she was forced by local authorities to have an abortion. Deng 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.
Feng already has one child and Deng said that because of this, according to Family Planning authorities they are in violation of China's one-child policy. How much the couple wants to 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," they 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.
Deng continues to search for answers, for himself and for his wife. What happened to them took place far away from any city center. As a migrant worker from Inner Mongolia, Deng had no pre-established relationship with any activist network to raise awareness.
By Tuesday in China, a story that had mentioned Deng and Feng's case on the Zhenping city website had been removed. Any search for her name online led to an "error" message.
Neither did Deng have a chance of raising the fee that was asked of him. He told ABC News that Feng, who is 25, was so distraught over the loss of her baby she slit her wrists in an attempted suicide. Deng believes that the abortion could have been legally prevented, even in China. There are exceptions to the one-child policy. Deng says that as a rural couple with one child who is a girl, they should have fallen into a category that allows for a second child. Now it is too late. He has yet to receive any kind of monetary remuneration or apology from the local government.