Chinese women plead for the lives of their unborn children

From a Chinese woman who enforced the one child policy in China:

“My first assignment directly concerned with abortion was to interview pregnant women who were brought into the clinic.… The only thing that really concerned the clinic director was how far along she was, as that determined the kind of abortion procedure that would be used. At the same time, I was to try and obtain her consent for the procedure she was about to undergo. The abortion would be performed in any case, I was told, but it was easier on everyone concerned if the patient first gave her permission…

Most of the women I saw were married… Many had been subjected to weeks of high-pressure tactics and had only reluctantly come around. More often than not, they arrived at the hospital accompanied by one or two unsmiling officials from the Women’s Federation. “Hurry up and finish what we have started,” I was urged more than once by such escorts, “before she changes her mind and gives us more trouble.”

At the time I saw nothing unethical about my assignment… I had repressed my earlier qualms about the morality of the new policy. It made good economic sense to me that China had to control its population in order to modernize. But at the same time I remained generally sympathetic with what these sad—faced women were going through… As things were, I was convinced that I was doing them a kindness by helping them to accept, as I had, the inevitable.

I was very good at this kind of manipulation, for I set out to make friends with each new patient… I would chat with her about her job and her family. When she began to relax a little in my company, I would bring the conversation around to the question. “Well, you appear to have exceeded your allotted number of children,” I would begin in my most sympathetic manner. She would answer yes. “I, too, once conceived an over quota child,” I would confide to her. “I, too, had to undergo remedial measures. I know it is a difficult thing to do. But it is necessary for the sake of our fatherland. Are you willing?”

Many were already defeated, and, when the question was put to them, would nod wordlessly, tears streaming down their faces. Others I was able to persuade. “You’ll have another chance to have a baby in a few years,” I would say soothingly. I didn’t really believe this, for the one child policy was getting stricter and stricter, but the desperate women to whom I was speaking sometimes did.

A few, when I asked if they consented to the operation, burst into bitter laughter. “Why ask me?” One scoffed. “I don’t have any choice. The population control workers in my unit have been after me for months… “Reflect on your mistake!” Only if I undergo “remedial measures” with they stop pressuring me and my husband.”

From time to time we would get a “pleader,” as they were scornfully referred to by the clinic staff. These women were the toughest to deal with, for they begged shamelessly and unceasingly. “Please spare the life of my child!” These women would cry out. “Please allow my baby to live. My husband and I want this baby very much.” Some even got down on their knees and began knocking their heads on the floor in supplication. “This is our last chance to have another child. Please… I beg you!”

Their pleas for mercy rang out like accusations and left a bitter taste in my mouth. My usual arguments were ineffective with pleaders, and I was reduced to pleading in my turn. “Please don’t make things even more difficult for us,” I would say. “We are only following orders. We don’t have any more choice than you do. We have no way to escape our responsibilities.” Despite my best efforts, I was frequently unable to induce these women to accept calmly their child’s fate. Some went into the operating room still begging, making everyone uneasy and uncomfortable.

At least where these pleaders were concerned, my sympathy soon gave way to irritation. Why couldn’t they understand that we clinic workers were not personally responsible for our actions? The doctors were only following orders. I was only a minor functionary. Besides, I, too, had been compelled to have an abortion. I, too, had only one child. Why should anyone be allowed to have more children than I? I hardened my heart again such women and began rebuking them. “Why do you insist on having a second child?” I asked. “Don’t you know that it is unfair for those who have only one?”

Stephen W Mosher A Mother’s Ordeal: One Woman’s Fight against China’s One Child Policy (Orlando, Florida: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1993) 251 – 253

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About Sarah

Sarah Terzo is a freelance writer and journalist who works for Live Action. She is a member of the board of The Pro-life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians and Consistent Life.
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