Nov. 18, 2008 -- A six-month pregnant mother of two who faced a forced abortion by Chinese authorities has been freed and allowed to continue her pregnancy, according to Radio Free Asia. The case had attracted international attention and outrage.
Arigul Tursun was scheduled to undergo the abortion against her will as early as today because authorities said she was entitled to only two children, according to the Uyghur Human Rights Project.
"I am all right and I am home now," Tursun told RFA.
The local population control committee chief reportedly said Tursun was released because "she wasn't in good enough health to have an abortion."
Tursun had earlier escaped from the hospital where she was kept under guard. Her husband said village authorities threatened to confiscate his house and farmland if his wife wasn't found. Police later tracked her down at the home of a relative.
The case sparked outrage in the U.S. among members of Congress. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) called forced abortions a "barbaric practice" and made a personal appeal on behalf of Tursun directly to the Chinese ambassador.
"Twice Arzigul has fled and been recaptured by China's population control cadres," said Smith. "Is the Chinese government really going to forcibly abort a third-trimester baby, after the mother's desperate efforts to save her child have become a global news story? We hope and pray they will hear the mother's plea and refrain from such brutality."
Rep. Joe Pitt (R-Penn.) also called for Tursun's release. "I call on the Chinese government to immediately intervene in order to stop any forced abortion from taking place," said Pitt. "Though we know Chinese authorities regularly used forced abortions to enforce its coercive population control program, carrying out this brutal procedure with the world watching Arzigul Tursun's case would display an utter disregard for any notion of human rights by Chinese authorities."
China's One Child Policy
Tursun and her family are members of the Uyghur Muslim group based in China's western region of Xinjiang.
China's one-child policy applies mainly to the Han Chinese majority in China, but allows ethnic minorities, including Uyghurs, to have additional children, with peasants permitted to have three children and city-dwellers to have two, according to China's official news agency.
But while Tursun is a peasant, her husband is from a city so their status was unclear.