When Baby 59’s unmarried mother delivered him in her bathroom, she thought her child would remain a secret. But after the baby slipped from her hands into the sewer pipe, her secret became global news.
The mother, 22, hid her pregnancy because it is illegal for unmarried Chinese women to have children. On May 25, she unexpectedly gave birth over the toilet in her apartment’s shared bathroom. Before calling for help, she flushed the remaining blood down the toilet to hide evidence of the birth. A dramatic two-hour rescue followed in which rescuers pried the pipe off the mostly uninjured baby piece by piece. Hospital workers nicknamed him “Baby 59” after the number of his incubator.
Fearing punishment, the mother did not step forward to claim the child for two days. Despite an outpouring of gifts and adoption offers from Zhejiang residents, the baby was released to his maternal grandparents on May 30.
Baby 59’s remarkable story raises new questions about China’s treatment of single or unmarried mothers. Injustices caused by China’s One-Child Policy often manifest themselves in tragedies so shocking they become buzzwords, such as “gendercide,” “abandonment” and “forced abortion.”
But since authorities pressed no charges in this case, an observer could easily overlook the government’s influence on the circumstances of Baby 59’s birth.
The mother feared discovery enough to risk her child’s life. By foregoing medical care, hiding evidence and hesitating to claim him, she repeatedly suppressed her maternal instincts. What led her to do so?
All Girls Allowed believes that this unmarried Chinese mother was trapped by the One-Child Policy. Her singleness made legal birth impossible. All Chinese mothers are required to have a birth permit to legally become pregnant, and all birth permit applications require a valid marriage certificate.
By visiting the doctor or seeking out other resources, she risked discovery by the local government. If that happened, Family Planning Officials would tell her to either submit to a forced abortion or pay a massive fine. What choice did she have but to hide?
Even now, after this mother’s story has spread across the world and sparked public outcry against the One-Child Policy, Baby 59’s future remains unclear. He is still an “over-quota” child. Without a birth permit, his mother cannot register him for a hukou, the Chinese residential permit that ensures access to education, medical care and even some forms of public transportation. She could also face the very fines that originally drove her into hiding.
The Chinese government cannot afford to ignore her situation. A system that highly values “saving face”—presenting only its best to the public—cannot allow this mother to return to her desperate situation without aid. The world is watching China, and they must deliver justice.
Brian Lee, Executive Director of All Girls Allowed, says, “The Chinese government must immediately issue this unmarried mother a birth permit and give Baby 59 a hukou. In the long-term, national policy change will be necessary to end the oppression and rejection that burdens mothers and babies throughout China. The marriage requirement for hukou distribution and the One Child-Policy, both of which deny social services to children of single parents, must end.”
Photo credit: Zhong Cheng JH/ImagineChina
LifeNews Note: All Girls Allowed, a human rights group.