By Sarah Terzo
Chinese nurse “Chi An” had a job enforcing the one-child policy in China. She emigrated to the United States and wrote a book about her experiences. In this quote, she describes coercing women to abort their “illegal” children.
“The unpleasant part began in the second half of January and was an unending and often exhausting struggle from then until the end of the year. Identifying the women who conceived children outside the plan was hard enough, requiring me to perform public examinations on all those suspected of being pregnant. Pressuring women who were pregnant with “illegal” children to get abortions was even more time-consuming. Even though I had the help of the Women’s Federation, there were still dozens of women who remained unswayed by “heart-to-heart” chats. The hard cases were now my responsibility, and there were not enough hours in the day to deal with all of them…
I asked Secretary Chen if we could order them all to attend a single family planning study session. He readily agreed. Our first session was held in April, in an isolated storeroom far removed from all the shops and dormitories.
We used what in Party parlance were “hard and soft” tactics – known in the West as the “good cop, bad cop” approach. Secretary Chen and other senior officials would first frighten the women with harsh threats of dire consequences for failing to abide by the one child policy. Then, speaking softly and as a friend, I would tell them that I was there to help. I was an expert at convincing women to abort – I had learned all the arguments during my earlier training at the hospital – and my gentleness help to break down their resistance. Those who angrily resisted Secretary Chen’s bluster often broke down in tears when approached by someone they thought was sympathetic. I would put my arm around them, and they would go quietly to the hospital.
Throughout 1983, each time the number of women awaiting abortions reached 20 or so, I would schedule a study session. The holdouts would be ordered on pain of heavy fines, to report to the storeroom. To increase the pressure on the women, I obtained Secretary Chen’s permission to keep them in custody for as long as they resist. During the day they would be subjected to morning to night study sessions. At night they would be locked in the storeroom. They would only be released if they agreed to an abortion.”
From Stephen W. Mosher, A Mother’s Ordeal: One Woman’s Fight against China’s One Child Policy (Orlando, Florida: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1993) pp. 267 – 268.