By Jinghong Cai
Edited by China Aid, a human rights organization that has reported extensively on forced abortion in China. This post first appeared at chinaaid.org.
It was almost midnight. We were awakened by the noise of someone frantically knocking on the door. My aunt, my mother’s younger sister, was being carried by her husband; pale, visibly weak to the point of fainting, and seriously sick. They came into our small apartment followed by other two men from their village. I heard them talk loudly with my parents, but I didn’t quite understand what was going on.
The next morning, at five o’clock, my father took them to Beijing Xiehe Hospital, the best medical facility in Beijing. My mother was sad for her sister but a little upset for their sudden visit. She was concerned that my sleep had been disturbed and it might affect my performance in the most important test of my life—the National College Entrance Test. In China, this test was usually held on July 7 to 9, and determined the future of any high school graduate, that is, whether to go to low-paid factory jobs or to become government employees with decent salaries and posh benefits. It was July 6, 1985, a date I would never forget.
My mother looked nervous, anxious and worried about my aunt. Later, my mother told me the whole story. My aunt was my mother’s third sister and was in her early forties. She committed the “crime of illegal pregnancy” three times, and the sentence was to be harsh and extreme, because for three times she and her husband had disobeyed the government’s One Child Policy. When she was 18 years old, my grandfather arranged her marriage to a young man who was an orphan. They had three daughters and one son. After several failed attempts, their son finally came after they had lost their house and field and were driven out of the village.
The Western, liberal ideologists may question why they wanted to have a son so badly that they broke the government’s law time and again. According to Chinese tradition, it is almost a religious belief that a son is the best heritage of a family, and the male heir is like the family’s flame of the incense, passing on his ancestor’s spirit from generation to generation. Wives often feel ashamed and guilty if they cannot give birth to a son. Another strong reason is the economy. Farmers in China depend heavily on male labor to work in the fields. Fathers and grandfathers believe that more sons mean more farming hands in the field, more harvest seasons and more happiness.
In 1980s, the Chinese government initiated the forced One Child Policy. The government’s atheistic worldview provides the underpinnings of its family-planning policy. The government claims that too large a population is the source of poverty and family planning is a “basic state policy” implemented to control the fast increase in population. The blanket measures taken by the government were forced abortion and fines for parents, while the children born from “illegal pregnancies” could not register with the local government agencies and hence were denied the right to health care and education.
In 1985, the campaign against “illegal pregnancies” went rampant and sterilization was enforced for married couples in some regions. Like forced abortion, forced sterilization is not a “choice” for those women. One morning in June, the police drove a big truck into my aunt’s village and forced all married women to jump on the truck. Many of them were middle-aged, had already had children, and were not even pregnant. The police told them that they would undergo a medical checkup at the hospital, but once there, they all were forcedly sterilized.
My aunt was a victim of this policy. After the sterilization operation, her womb kept bleeding. The doctors in that local hospital panicked and asked her husband and the other two Communist Party members from that village to transfer her overnight to a hospital in Beijing. My aunt was actually dying when she was sent to Beijing for emergency care. Her life was saved after an eight-hour surgery in Beijing, but she lost her ability to perform physical work permanently.
As Bob Fu, from a Chinese Christian organization based in the United States, points out, forced abortion means it is never a “choice” for women in China. However, people in China are so blind about this fact that they accept forced abortion as a natural and normal act, and even automatically engage in helping the government with its propaganda. A middle-aged woman, a Communist Party member from the university where I used to teach, often told foreign tourists that the whole world should thank China for the forced abortion policy, “for we contribute to the world by sacrificing ourselves.”
Sadly, many naïve people from Western countries believe this concocted story. In China, abortion is as common as children having their tonsils taken out. Nobody connects abortion with murder. The government’s policies have created a culture of disrespect for life and dignity, with millions of babies (some up to 9 months gestation) forcedly aborted.
I had three abortions.
As a Christian, I know that God has forgiven me, but for years, I carried with me the pain, shame and guilt of having snuffed out three precious lives. The first time I was forced to have an abortion because I did not apply for the government’s permit to get pregnant. My department secretary in charge of family planning told me that it was better for me to have a secret abortion than being reported and then punished. Of course, she was not being kind to me or anything; the reason she asked me to have a secret abortion was that if I was punished for breaking the family planning law, the university would receive a stern warning, even a hefty fine, and the university leaders would have to submit a letter of “remorse” for negligence and dereliction of duty!
After my son was born, I got pregnant again, and for the same reason I had a second abortion. After that, the doctor recommended that I use a Copper-T IUD, a type of long-acting, reversible contraception. Unfortunately, I got pregnant again. For the same reason, I had another abortion.
In 2012, when I was baptized, I confessed my sins and, as I said before, I know my God forgave me and will never again remember my transgressions (Heb. 10:17).
In my case, three innocent lives were brutally ended because the government-enforced One Child Policy. But my story is not unique; it is the story of millions of Chinese women.
Many in communist China and across the world reject the notion of abortion as murder; I had three forced abortions—I found God; I know better.
The day I confessed my sin of abortion to God, I had a blissful dream—three young children giggling joyfully, playing hide and seek, running around a smiling man in a long, white robe. I knew I was forgiven.
Jinghong Cai is a PhD Candidate in the field of Education at a university in the U.S. and a guest contributor at China Aid.