The dark nature of abortion and choice come into sharp relief when considering the human rights abuses which result from forced abortions in mainland China, according to one pro-life activist.
“The issues regarding choice really come into pretty stark relief when you consider forced abortion under the one-child policy, and also gendercide, the sex-selective abortion of baby girls,” Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, told CNA in an interview last week about China’s decades-long one-child-per-family policy — now a two-child policy.
Littlejohn, whose work includes exposing the widespread human rights abuses in China under the state’s family planning policy and helping pregnant mothers keep their children, was selected to deliver the keynote address at the annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life on Jan. 23 at Georgetown University, but the conference was canceled due to weather concerns.
The theme of the conference was to have been “Whose Choice?”, exploring the false notion of choice in the matter of abortion.
In an interview before the scheduled conference, Littlejohn explained how China’s repressive family planning policy has resulted in forced abortions and sterilizations. “Forced abortion is clearly not a choice,” she told CNA.
For decades in China, women would be forced to have an abortion and sterilization if they were found by the state to have had more than one child, as a form of coercive population control.
“So you say whose choice are these abortions? They’re the choice of the Chinese Communist party, they’re the choice of the state,” she said. “The woman’s body remains in the domain of the state.”
China’s recent announcement that the one-child policy would be expanded so that married couples could have two children has still not fixed the human rights abuses of forced abortions and sterilizations, and gendercide will continue, Littlejohn insisted, because of the population cap.
Third children in families “will be routinely aborted,” she said.
Additionally, the state will still forcibly sterilize women to comply with the policy. These sterilizations are brutal and permanently damage a woman’s body, Littlejohn explained.
One woman who was forcibly sterilized without anesthesia reported to Littlejohn that it felt like a blowtorch to the inside of her body. The woman became infected and suffered chronic back and abdominal pain and migraine headaches.
“They’re conducted by people who have very little training, and women end up being butchered, and really end up losing not only their reproductive health but their general health after these sterilizations,” Littlejohn said. In rural areas where it is the women’s task to carry water to the family from aquifers, those who have undergone sterilizations will be too weak to carry the necessary amount.
Thus many women will avoid undergoing these sterilizations by just not having a second child.
The policy has also spurred gendercide throughout the country. Mothers would have ultrasounds of their babies to find out its sex — if the baby were a girl, they would abort the child, just to be able to later have a boy to carry on the family name. This has created a demographic disaster in China, as there are an estimated 117 men per 100 women in the country.
“I believe that gendercide will continue at the same pace under the two-child policy, because of the issue of forced sterilization,” Littlejohn continued. If families already have one daughter and the mother is pregnant with a girl, they may abort the second child, until they have a boy.
“Second daughters are extremely vulnerable in China, and they will remain vulnerable,” she said.
While the government regrets this consequence because of the country’s demographic problems, they have done nothing to really stop it, Littlejohn said.
So she has been conducting the “Save a Girl” campaign, woman-to-woman, to persuade one mother at a time to keep her baby girl. If a woman is scheduled for an abortion at a local hospital, the network will go to the mother’s door and plead with her to keep the child, giving her a monthly stipend to care for the child.
“Our motto is for the mother to keep her own daughter, to keep the family intact,” she explained.
“These women are so grateful for us to come to their door. It’s like the voice of truth and love and mercy and help coming from the United States to their very door and saying ‘You’re right, you don’t want to abort your daughter. She is precious to you. And so we’re going to give you practical help’.”