Putting a Human Face on China’s One-Child Policy: The story of Feng Jianmei

The Economist is running an excellent article on China’s one-child policy. The article focuses on the human cost of the policy, as well as on the haphazard and unequal way in which it is enforced. The tragedy of the policy in China is all the greater when demographic and social costs – which the article does not address – are taken into account. But often it is the personal stories that wake people up and change regimes. The Economist focuses on the following story:

IN THE photographs the young mother lies on a clinic bed, her hair obscuring her face. She appears as inert as the baby lying beside her. But 23-year-old Feng Jianmei is still alive, whereas her baby girl is not. The baby was killed while still in the womb by an injection arranged by local family-planning officials. They restrained Ms Feng, who was seven months pregnant, and then induced her to give birth to the dead baby.

Of course, in certain circumstances the Chinese can agree to pay a large fine and agree to certain social costs (such as the forfeiting of the child’s right to education) rather than kill their unborn children. But many Chinese cannot afford such costs.

For Ms Feng, living in a rural area, the fine was lower—40,000 yuan. She was given the option to pay and keep the baby, but could not afford it. Her husband, Deng Jiyuan, earns 4,000 yuan ($630) a month at the local hydroelectric power station, but needed more to pay the fine. So on May 30th he set off for the coal mines of Inner Mongolia to boost his income. It was then that family-planning officials swooped.

At first a dozen officials tried to force Ms Feng into a car. She fled to an aunt’s house, but they broke through the gate, so she escaped to the mountains nearby, where she hid under a bed in the house of a friend. “They laughed when they found her,” says Mr Deng. An official forced her to sign a form (in theory, consent is needed) and after an injection into her belly Ms Feng gave birth to the dead baby 30 hours later.

Apparently a provincial government has apologized to Ms Feng for the way in which the case was handled, but one can only imagine that in a nation of well over a billion people this story is not entirely unique. In any case, the problem is with the policy, not with its enforcement. The definition of tyranny is when a state uses its power to advance its own (conceived) ends rather than the welfare of its people. There are few better examples of tyranny than forced abortion.


About Matthew J. Tuininga

Matthew J. Tuininga is the Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Posted on June 22, 2012, in Abortion, International Affairs and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Putting a Human Face on China’s One-Child Policy: The story of Feng Jianmei.

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