China has paid $11,200 to the family of a Chinese women, Feng Jianmei, who was forced to abort her seven-month-old fetus in early June because she was unable to pay a fine for having a second child. Feng and her husband, Deng Jiyuan, already have a six-year-old daughter.
Authorities in China have allowed families to have a second child if they pay a fine. They demanded $6,000 from Feng after learning that she was expecting. When they heard they could not pay, officials abducted Feng, held her for three days and forced her to have an abortion via a chemical injection, which induced labor. The seven-month fetus was stillborn.
Photos of Feng lying next to the bloody fetus circulated widely on the internet and stoked widespread outrage around the world not only at Feng’s inhumane treatment but at China’s one-child policy and the punitive measures officials use to enforce it. After the family began to speak to foreign media, authorities forced Feng to stay in the hospital for a time, says the New York Times; Deng sought help by going to Beijing from their home in rural Shaanxi Province.
Two officials have now been fired and five sanctioned and a formal apology issued. Noting that “most people support what we did,” Deng says he hopes that he and his wife can “move on” and return to life in their village.
Feng’s forced abortion has led to calls to end China’s one-child policy. The policy was created by the Communist government in 1979 “amid fears that China could collapse under the weight of its massive population,” says NPR. Families in cities are only allowed to have one child and those in rural areas two, if the first is a girl and if they can pay.
Wang Feng, who runs the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy in Beijing, says that the policy should have been phased out ten years ago; the problem is now that people in China are having too few children (an average of 1.5), not enough to support its aging population. Out of China’s current population of 1.3 billion, the elderly currently number about 180 million. But by 2030, that number is predicted to double to 360 million, bigger than the US’s current population.
With fewer children, China’s workforce — which has helped power its booming economy — will not be able to support health care and other costs for a disproportionately large number of elderly. Traditionally, children in China have cared for aging parents and relatives but with only one child per family, one person can now find him or herself supporting a number of people.
Deng’s and his wife’s reasons for having another child were precisely because of these issues. As he said to NPR, “We planned this pregnancy because our parents are old, they want us to have another child.” But the Chinese leadership, described as “cautious and risk-averse,” still refuses to change the policy.
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