After decades of gruesome forced late-term abortions, human rights campaigners sense the beginning of the end to one aspect of China’s coercive one-child policy may be coming to pass.
One human rights group confirmed this week that the central Population & Family Planning Commission has issued directives to local and provincial offices banning the use of forced abortion, particularly in cases of late-term abortions. Kat Lewis of All Girls Allowed says the move is a “big step” towards protecting women and children — if it is implemented.
This week, All Girls Allowed received word that China’s central family planning leaders have ordered local affiliates to modify their enforcement of the One-Child Policy. The human rights group reached the family planning office in Chongqing, the city where disgraced hardliner Bo Xilai ruled as Party Secretary until this spring. A committee member confirmed that they had issued an order on August 30th prohibiting forced sterilization and banning the use of late-term abortions to enforce the policy.
“Parents must make their own choice,” the official told All Girls Allowed. “We will not use forced abortion.”
The official in Chongqing said the demand for new protocols came from the Population and Family Planning Commission in Beijing: “Earlier the government issued a document to all the family planning committees. Everyone has received it.” The official did not give the precise date of this document’s release, but it appears to have followed a highly publicized case in June, when a woman named Feng Jianmei was dragged into a clinic for a forced abortion seven months into her second pregnancy.
Lewis says the government is trying to assuage growing national concerns over coercive measures in family planning. When the National Population and Family Planning Commission held its semiannual meeting in July, Minister Wang Xia called upon policy enforcers to “absolutely stop performing late-stage abortions,” saying they should only “guide people to do family planning voluntarily.”
While that sounds like good news, Minister Wang was silent on the topics of early-stage forced abortion and forced sterilization, but her insistence on using only voluntary measures indicates that forced abortion should not occur at any stage of pregnancy. This contrasts starkly with earlier family planning statements in China, which have called for mandatory abortion as a “remedial measure” and encouraged enforcers to “spare no effort” in terminating the pregnancies of women who lacked birth permits.
“Still, the new softened measures may not satisfy those who see the policy’s huge fines as another form of coercion. This week, Chinese citizens expressed outrage after a family exempt from the One-Child Policy was fined 70,000 RMB ($11,043) in “social compensation” fees following the birth of their second child. Xiao Zheng and Xiao Guo, who married five yeas ago, are both from single-child families and are thus permitted by law to have a second child. Still, local family planning authorities now demand several times the couple’s annual income in punitive fees, saying that they did not submit the proper application on time,” Lewis said.
Still, All Girls Allowed founder Chai Ling was thrilled about the new developments.
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“The media’s exposure of this injustice has been invaluable, and people in China and around the world are standing boldly against injustice. This has made China understand that they can no longer hide the brutal truth. Minster Wang Xia’s order to end forced abortion is awesome progress,” Ling said.
“I hope that this latest news brings all our nation’s voices together to help speed the end of the policy. I urge the Obama administration to uphold the rights of women in China by pressing China to go even further in its rollback of coercive family planning. I am grateful for Chen Guangcheng’s advocacy, Congressman Chris Smith’s (R-NJ) faithful three-decade fight against forced abortion in China, for Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Mitt Romney’s calls for the end of the One-Child Policy, and for the open condemnation of the One-Child Policy in the Republican party platform,” Ling added.
She concluded: “Even with Minister Wang’s call to end late-term forced abortions, the policy remains coercive: it still threatens parents with huge fines and job loss for having a second child. Human rights will take a back seat as long as the government continues to use family planning fees as a major revenue source. China cannot genuinely claim that the policy is ‘coercion-free’ until it no longer threatens parents’ livelihoods and ability to provide.”