On the surface Liu Dan's life had the makings of a perfect love story. She fell in love with her fiancé Song Qingshan while they were working together in a firecracker factory in China's Hunan Province. Liu and Song wanted to get married but could not as Liu was not old enough to legally wed. They had a traditional engagement ceremony and shortly thereafter learned that Liu was pregnant.
In China, that's the part of the story where things get ugly.
Just days before Liu Dan's due date in February 2009, workers from China's Population and Family Planning Commission, which regulates the nation's One Child Policy, abducted Liu from her home. They transported Liu to their local center where they injected a toxic serum through her abdomen and killed her nearly nine-month-old fetus. They forced Liu to abort the dead fetus, even though Liu's high blood pressure made her unfit for such a procedure. A few hours later, Song broke into the operating area to find his fiancé alive but bleeding from her mouth, nose, eyes, and ears. She soon died from severe hemorrhaging.
Liu Dan's story is one of many that reveal the implications of China's One Child Policy on the lives of mothers and their babies. Other stories involve doctors cutting up full-term fetuses inside of the mother's wombs, beating "out of plan babies" to death who manage to survive forced abortion, failing to use anesthesia or other sanitary measures while operating on pregnant mothers, and tossing the fetus's remains to the mother in a plastic bag if she cannot pay for its disposal.
The Chinese Communist Party formally instituted the One Child Policy in 1980. The policy began as a response to China's population growth and the relative lack of food, employment and education. The resource shortage stemmed partially from Mao Zedong's failed Great Leap Forward economic policies, which contributed to approximately 30 million deaths from starvation. The One Child Policy was meant to be temporary, but 30 years after its implementation it remains in effect and is being strictly enforced throughout China.
The Chinese government boasts that the One Child Policy has successfully prevented over 400 million births (the entire population of the United States + 100 million) during the past 30 years. The statistic is owed to the approximately 35,000 abortions and sterilizations that occur in China each day, many of which are forced.
Gendercide, or the deliberate extermination of persons of a particular sex, has resulted in a ratio of male to female births of 120:100 in China. It is estimated that by 2020, China will have 40 million more men than women under the age of 20.
In China it is illegal for a woman to give birth without a birth permit. Many second children or children born prior to marriage are classified as "illegal" or "out of plan." There are some exceptions to the rule in certain regions of China where ethnic minorities, parents who are both only children, and couples whose first child is a girl may be legally permitted to have a second child.
If officials from the Population and Family Planning Commission learn of an illegitimate birth or illegal pregnancy, they will carry out measures to terminate the fetus's life regardless of the stage of pregnancy. Commission workers operate on a quota system, which requires them to actively seek out uncertified women for forced abortion and sterilization.
Given China's traditional preference for male children, it is common for Chinese couples to determine the gender of their fetuses through ultrasound and take abortion in their own hands if they discover the gender to be female. In other cases, midwives have strangled baby girls to death with their umbilical chords, subsequently reporting the babies as "stillborn" so the couples will have another chance to have a male son.
A common alternative to aborting or killing newborn children is abandonment. In China, 1 million baby girls are abandoned each year, with many couples never officially registering their newborn daughters. Many of the abandoned girls have been trafficked to supply the excess of single Chinese men with future partners.
One of China's staunchest advocates against the One Child Policy is Chai Ling, a woman who was exiled from China for her involvement as a student leader during the Tiananmen Square Movement. Ling is the founder of All Girls Allowed, an organization that seeks to restore life, value, and dignity to girls and mothers while revealing the injustices of China's One-Child Policy. The organization's work involves easing the "burden" of having a baby girl with monthly stipends to Chinese families and baby shower gifts, providing legal defense and asylum to mothers who are in danger of forced pregnancy or involuntary sterilization, and raising funds for orphanages.
A devout Christian and staunch believer in people's freedom of choice, Ling finds merit in preserving the sanctity of life as well as the idea that women and mothers are ultimately those who should choose whether or not they want to have a baby.
"In China the woman's choice is not allowed and the baby's right to life is not granted," says Ling. "This process can teach us a lot about the debate in the United States and how both sides can find common ground."
Despite the fact that Ling has not been to China in twenty years and cannot return in the foreseeable future, she remains hopeful that the work of All Girls Allowed and activists in China will help bring about the end of what she views to be an inherently flawed policy.
"I believe that the end of the One Child Policy will be the work of God," she says. "I know we are all people who try to do good in the world. In the end I believe that China will be free, leaders' hearts will be changed, and people's voices will finally be heard."
Much of the information came from the report below compiled by All Girls Allowed, as well as different sources cited on the All Girls Allowed webpage (see for example http://www.allgirlsallowed.org/expose/gendercide).