Capitol Hill got a chilling firsthand account of the forced abortions under China’s one-child policy today as funding of the UN Population Fund came under fire at a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights, noted in his opening statement that the one-child policy has been “enabled” by the UNPF, which was refunded by President Obama in an “indefensible reversal” from Bush-era policy.
Last year, the U.S. gave $165 million to the UNPF, which says it supports “voluntary family planning” in China (where, incidentally, it’s not voluntary).
The hearing centered around the ongoing case of human-rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng, who is still being held in a Beijing hospital along with this family.
Smith called Chen “among the bravest defenders of women’s rights in history.”
As a result of trying to defend women against forced abortions and forced sterilizations, Chen, who escaped from house arrest to the U.S. Embassy last month, has suffered “cruel torture, degrading treatment, unjust incarceration, and multiple beatings,” Smith said.
But it was the last woman to testify on today’s panel that painted a picture of the violence from which Chen was trying to rescue Chinese women.
Mei Shunping, born in Tianjin, China, 20 years before the one-child policy was introduced by the People’s Republic, told the committee that she is just one of many women “whose lives were destroyed by the policy — the women that Chen Guangcheng tried to help so courageously.”
Mei was married in 1981, and gave birth to a son two years later. At the time, women were supposed to automatically get an IUD implanted or husbands were to be sterilized after the first child’s birth. Doctors refused to implant the IUD in Mei, though, for medical reasons.
“Without the IUD, I became the prime target for surveillance by the factory’s Family Planning Commission,” Mei said. “From 1983 to 1990, because of the one-child policy, I had to have five abortions.”
Mei noted the workplace surveillance put in place to prevent unapproved births and the corresponding punishments for getting pregnant.
“My factory’s Family Planning Commission used three levels of control: at the factory level, in the factory clinic and on the factory floor. If one worker violated the rules, all would be punished. Workers monitored each other. Women of reproductive age accounted for 60 percent of my factory floor. Colleagues were suspicious and hostile to each other because of the one-child policy. Two of my pregnancies were reported by my colleagues to the Family Planning Commission,” she said.
“When discovered, pregnant women would be dragged to undergo forced abortions—there was no other choice. We had no dignity as potential child-bearers. By order of the factory’s Family Planning Commission, every month during their menstrual period, women had to undress in front of the birth planning doctor for examination. If anyone skipped the examination, she would be forced to take a pregnancy test at the hospital. We were allowed to collect a salary only after it was confirmed that we were not pregnant.”
Mei said that despite her kidney disease, doctors implanted an IUD after the fifth abortion and gave her husband the bill. When he protested her treatment, he was arrested for “violating and obstructing the one-child policy, disturbing the normal operations of a hospital, and disturbing social peace.”
The factory at which Mei worked also fined her six months’ wages and gave her a “serious administrative warning” for becoming pregnant, and made her undergo monthly exams to ensure she hadn’t had the IUD removed.