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Protection of Conscience Project

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Service, not Servitude
Background

Forced abortions and sterilizations in China

Enemies Of the State? How local officials in China launched a brutal campaign of forced abortions and sterilizations.
(Hannah Beech,Time Magazine, 19 September, 2005)

Sean Murphy*

It is not unreasonable to believe that this type of campaign could give rise to conflicts of conscience among some of the officials and health care workers involved, either with respect to the procedures or the coercion and violence used.

Time Magazine has published a disturbing account of brutality by family planning officials in Shandong province in eastern China. The 'one-child policy' was officially relaxed somewhat in 2002 when the law was changed to allow Chinese parents to have more than one child if they were willing to pay a "fine." On the other hand, local regulations in Shandong allow a woman to have more than one child only if the first is handicapped or is a girl.

Apparently as a result of criticism of the 'high' birth rate in the Linyi Region, family planning authorities in the region began, in March, 2005, to demand that women with illegal pregnancies have abortions and that those who had the maximum number of children be sterilized. As women refused to cooperate or went into hiding, pressure applied by the authorities became more intense, extending to relatives, who were forced to undergo "study sessions" to 'correct' their "wrong thinking." Going further, people who had helped women avoid sterilization were beaten to death while in custody. Between March and July in a single county of the province, authorities forcibly sterilized at least 7,000 people.

The article describes how family planning officials seized the daughter of Hu Bingmei, a woman with two children, to force her to go with them to the local family planning clinic, where "nurses threw her onto an operating table" for the operation, which, it seems, was bungled. It also describes the killing of an infant in utero two days before the due date; family planning operatives pinned the mother down on a bed in a clinic and drove the syringe into her abdomen to lethally inject her daughter, who was born dead ten hours later.

The State Family Planning Commission is reported to be investigating the situation in Shandong and has promised to punish authorities who have broken the law.

It is not unreasonable to believe that this type of campaign could give rise to conflicts of conscience among some of the officials and health care workers involved, either with respect to the procedures or the coercion and violence used.

 

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