Luo Cuifen, 29, of Kunming, China, went to the doctor because she saw blood in her urine. An X-ray revealed 23 needles deeply embedded in her body. Now doctors say that the needles were most likely placed there long ago by her grandparents, now deceased, who were trying to kill her as a child because they wanted a baby boy to take her place-and China's one-child policy wouldn't allow both a girl and a boy.
Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute and the first American to discover and write about China's one-child policy, told WORLD that he'd heard about such cases, but the details of this case set it apart. Of all the horrible stories coming out of China, he said, "this one is a 10, almost up there with fetal cannibalism."
Many girl babies are abandoned to die, but Mosher said another typical act is to insert an inch-long needle through the soft spot of the scalp and into the infant's brain. Luo Cuifen's grandparents apparently inserted the needles in all parts of her body, making a "pincushion out of her"-but she survived.
Many of the needles worked their way into Luo's vital organs, including her lungs, liver, bladder, and kidneys. Six are in her abdomen, and doctors hoped to remove them in the first of several operations that will require 23 doctors from China, the United States, and Canada, in fields ranging from women's medicine to neurology and orthopedics.
Although China's one-child policy is often described as voluntary, Mosher said it is still a top-down program. In many parts of China parents prefer boys to girls because boys are bound by tradition to support their parents in their old age, and because they carry on the family name.
Infanticide and abortions of unborn girls have created a skewed ratio between the genders, with 119 boys born for every 100 girls, according to official figures. Mosher says the ratio in some areas is as high as 120-130 boys for every 100 girls, and that on some rural playgrounds it's not unusual to see 25 little boys for every five girls. Most of the missing girls aren't in orphanages or adopted into families: "They're dead."
-with reporting from the Associated Press