Forced abortion case investigated amid outrage

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Authorities in Shaanxi Province have launched an investigation into an instance of forced abortion, pledging that anyone found responsible will be punished according to relevant laws and regulations.

Feng Jianmei, 27, was forced to terminate her pregnancy at seven months in a hospital in Zhenping county, Shaanxi Province, on June 2. [Xinhua]

Feng Jianmei, 27, was forced to terminate her pregnancy at seven months in a hospital in Zhenping county, Shaanxi Province, on June 2. [Xinhua]

Feng Jianmei, 27, was forced to terminate her pregnancy at seven months in a hospital in Zhenping county on June 2. Details of the case, including several photos showing the remains of the fetus lying next to the mother on her hospital bed, were posted on online forums and have since shocked and angered many nationwide.

"It is brutal to end a new life that will soon come into the world. It breaks my heart to see such a thing," netizen "Fen Hong Shan Hu Hai" said in a post on Sina's, the country's largest microblogging website.

Many netizens described the case as outrageous and tragic. However, it has yet to be confirmed if the photos are genuine, and the photographer has yet to be identified.

The Shaanxi Provincial Population and Family Planning Commission, which oversees the family planning work in the province, announced Thursday it has dispatched an investigatory team to Zhenping and ordered the local government to punish any officials who are found to be responsible for the forced abortion.

"What the authorities did in Zhenping represents a serious violation of national and provincial policies and regulations on population and family planning, has undermined the reputation of our work and negatively impacted society," the commission said.

The commission said most of the descriptions of Feng's case found in online posts were factual. But investigators are still looking into allegations that Feng was illegally detained before the abortion was performed.

Authorities in Zhenping said Feng consented to the abortion, adding that Feng was not legally entitled to have a second child. Feng previously gave birth to a girl in 2007.

"Feng is not entitled to have a second child, according to policies on family planning. Therefore, local officials brought her to the hospital to receive the abortion," Su Huaichun, a publicity official in Zhenping, said Thursday.

However, Feng's abortion took place late in her pregnancy, a practice that is prohibited by China's laws on population and family planning.

"According to law, mothers who are not entitled to have a second baby are indeed required to terminate their pregnancy at an early stage," an anonymous official with the Shaanxi Provincial Population and Family Planning Commission said Thursday.

"But in Feng's case, she was in the late phase of her pregnancy and an abortion could cause physical injury to her. The correct way to deal with the case would have been for local officials to allow her to deliver the baby first, and then mete out punishment according to regulations," the official said.

"We have ordered local governments in Shaanxi to prevent such things from happening again," he said.

While rural residents and ethnic minorities are permitted to have more than one child, urban residents like Feng are limited to a single child, according to family planning policies introduced in the 1970s to rein in China's surging population.

Local officials and doctors insisted that the abortion was carried out with Feng's consent, a claim that Feng and her family have denied, according to a report in the Thursday edition of the Huangshangbao Daily, an influential newspaper in Shaanxi.

Deng Jiyuan, Feng's husband, told the newspaper that the forced abortion took place because the family refused to pay a deposit of 40,000 yuan (6,349 U.S. dollars) to the township government.

"I don't know what the deposit was for," Deng said.

Yuan Fang, a population and family planning official from the township government, said Feng's urban "hukou," or household registration permit, prevents her from having more than one child.

"She would need to transfer her 'hukou' to our township first before having the baby. The money was charged as a deposit for the transfer and would have been paid back if her family had done so," Yuan said.

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