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Uproar over Aborted Fetus Photo

Twenty-three-year-old Feng Jianmei was forced to have a late-term abortion by local authorities in Shaanxi Province. Another photo of Feng with her aborted fetus caused an uproar across China (warning: graphic content).

A Shaanxi Province woman provoked an uproar with an online posting of a photo showing her with her seven-month-old fetus after what she said was a forced abortion.

The gruesome photo was reposted across the Internet in China, prompting provincial officials to announce that a special team had been assigned to investigate and “deal with the case seriously in accordance with the law.”

Feng Jianmei, who lives in the southern Shaanxi city of Ankang, said local family planning officials forcibly injected her with a drug June 4. Thirty-six hours later, she said, her child was stillborn.

A week later, Feng posted the photo that sparked immediate and intense public reaction.

Feng said she was forced into the abortion because she and her husband could not afford the 40,000 yuan penalty they were ordered to pay by the family planning department for a pregnancy that violated China’s one-child policy.

Feng and her husband, Deng Giyuan, already have one child. Deng said they could not afford the fine because they’ve recently spent large sums on cancer treatment for his hospitalized mother.

Feng said more than twenty family planning department staff members came to her home June 2 and ordered her to go to the hospital for an abortion. On the way, she said she was beaten for resisting.

Feng said none of her family members were allowed to accompany her during the injection procedure. Her father-in-law, who rushed to the hospital after hearing about the alleged abduction by family planning staffers, was blocked at the door to the obstetrics ward where Feng was treated.

Some officials tell a different story. Li Yongjiu, deputy chief for the Ankang family planning agency, told Caixin that Feng was not forced to have an abortion. He also noted that Chinese law allows an abortion as late as the twenty-eighth week of pregnancy.

“A lot of us tried for days to educate her,” he said. “She agreed to the abortion herself.”

Yet Li admitted that his agency has been putting more emphasis on enforcement this year than in the past. That’s because the department’s target for enforcing the one-child policy—a target that aims for 95 percent compliance among affected families—was not met for the past two years.

A family planning department chief in Hebei Province said Feng was probably injected with ethacridine, a powerful drug widely used across China for abortions through the early 1990s but common only in some parts of the country today.

Wang Su and Ren Zhongyuan are Caixin staff reporters.

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From the Caixin Editors

The Internet’s effectiveness at stirring public rage in China has been proven again, this time by a distraught mother with a camera. But thanks to an institutional wall that protects authorities from public criticism, the online photo of Feng Jianmei and her aborted fetus did little more than generate a lot of repostings and blog comments. Officials in Ankang, where Feng said she was forced to have an abortion to comply with China’s one-child policy, promised to investigate her charges of family planning agency brutality. Government newspapers such as Global Times recognized the story as well in the context of national debates over the policy’s future. Meanwhile, a family planning official who spoke with Caixin defended his agency against Feng’s charges. After a few more weeks of mouse clicks, the rage is likely to subside.

By Wang Su and Ren Zhongyuan

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