The Thirty Years War

"The Thirty Years War" Continued...

Issue: "How Mark Souder fell," June 19, 2010

But when Chai attended a congressional hearing on China's forced abortions last fall, her view of China-and herself-changed: "When I got there, I thought I knew China. I didn't realize how little I knew."

The revelations came from Wujian, a young Chinese woman testifying in a trembling voice behind a screen to protect her identity. Wujian (an alias the woman used for protection) told the congressional committee about enduring a forced abortion in a small village in northern China in 2004-an experience she described as "a journey in hell."

After learning she was pregnant without the required birth permit from local officials, Wujian said she hid from authorities in a dilapidated house with no electricity in a remote area. Despite her efforts to hide to protect her baby, authorities discovered Wujian's pregnancy and location, and forced her into a grisly hospital with other women facing a similar fate.

Wujian described the excruciating ordeal: begging for her child's life as doctors pulled the baby apart with scissors, and catching a glimpse of the bloody foot of her nearly full-term child. "Through my tears, the picture of the bloody foot was engraved into my eyes and into my heart, and so clearly I could see the five small bloody toes," she said. "Immediately the baby was thrown into the trash can."

Through tears, the young woman tried to explain the trauma: "Physically I recovered after about one month, but psychologically and spiritually-never." Wujian said only God's forgiveness and her newfound Christian faith sustains her: "If God allows, I will ask forgiveness from my baby when I see him in heaven."

Chai was cut to the heart. "I was crying behind her," Chai remembers. "I was never in my entire life-except for Tiananmen-struck with such deep emotion and grief." Looking back, Chai says the emotions of Tiananmen Square came back with Wujian's story as she considered the slaughter of helpless innocents. She realized that forced abortions in China meant "another Tiananmen Square every day."

As Chai considered this evil, she realized that China's problems ran deeper than politics. Over the course of the following weeks-and through the encouragement of Christian friends-Chai converted to Christianity in December. A minister baptized her at Park Street Church in Boston on Easter Sunday.

With Chai's new faith comes a new focus: helping end forced abortions. To that end, she's launching a project called All Girls Allowed. The aim is to partner with other groups-like the Texas-based ChinaAid, an organization serving house churches and persecuted Christians in China-to help grassroots organizations in China educate mothers and fathers on the value of all children, offer legal aid to families desiring to keep their children, and provide post-abortion counseling to women who need it.

That's a huge task. The one-child policy comes down from China's massive central government. Local officials in provinces, counties, and townships enforce the policy through local "family planning committees." The officials limit most women in urban areas to one child. They allow about half of the women in rural areas to bear a second child if their first child is a female.

The government requires married couples to obtain a birth permit before bearing a child and often requires couples to otherwise use birth control. If a woman bears an unauthorized child, officials sometimes impose huge fines called "social compensation fees." A 2009 report from the U.S. Congressional Executive Commission on China (CECC) said that one local government imposed additional penalties for couples who couldn't pay: They added their names to a credit blacklist in China's banking system.

Some women don't make it that far. In some cases, local officials intervene before mothers bear unauthorized children. CECC members who examined official reports from Chinese authorities said at least 18 of China's 31 provincial-level jurisdictions permit officials to ensure that citizens don't exceed birth quotas. That could include forcing abortions and sterilizations. In at least eight provinces, local regulations explicitly require "termination of pregnancy" if the pregnancy doesn't meet local standards.

Local officials have an incentive to meet quotas, including promotion and political advancement. A January 2009 family planning manual in Wuyishan county outlined a point system, according to CECC: Authorities awarded local officials 15 points for meeting all tubal ligation goals for the year. They earned another five points for each mid- to late-term abortion they oversaw.

Though officials usually don't admit forcing abortions, plenty of reports of the practice regularly surface from watchdog groups and local sources. In 2007, NPR reported dozens of forced abortions in one week in Guangxi Province, including among unmarried women pregnant with their first child. (Single women cannot obtain birth permits.)


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