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Abortion Dispute Unveils Contradictions in Law
Jing'an District People's Court will be the first in Shanghai to interpret a portion of China's new Population and Family Planning Law that grants both a husband and wife the right to decide if they want to abort a fetus.

It has agreed to hear a dispute between Huangpu Yingzi, who underwent an abortion early this month, and her estranged husband Zheng Zhichuan, who fought to stop the procedure.

The case stems out of messy divorce proceedings that began in July when Huangpu, then two months pregnant, told her husband of eight months that she wanted to end the marriage.

He refused to sign the divorce papers and said he told her not to have an abortion. She disputes his story. "He said he didn't like the child and never planned to have one," said Huangpu.

The 30-year-old went to the hospital in July to abort the baby, but was turned away because the hospital said she didn't have her husband's consent.

She returned to the hospital on September 2 and told doctors that she was single. Her parents backed up her story and the fetus was aborted.

But as the abortion was done after the new law was enacted, Zheng is allowed to sue on the basis that his rights to decide whether or not to abort the fetus was ignored.

The dispute raised interesting questions about contradictions in Chinese law.

The new law for the first time protects men's rights to prevent an abortion, but the women's rights protection regulations give women the right to decide whether or not to have a baby, said Xiong Limin, an attorney with Shanghai Siwei Law Firm.

If a woman has an abortion without a proper reason - such as a medical problem - she has to get her husband's agreement or he can sue for damages, he added. Court officials expect the case to end with Huangpu paying compensation to Zheng.

(eastday.com September 18, 2002)

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