Thursday, August 30, 2007

Forced Abortion in China

Chronicle page at this link

Chinese victims of forced late-term abortion fight back

QIAN'AN, China — Yang Zhongchen, a small-town businessman, wined and dined three government officials for permission to become a father.

But the Peking duck and liquor weren't enough. One night, a couple of weeks before her date for giving birth, Yang's wife was dragged from her bed in a north China town and taken to a clinic, where, she says, her baby was killed by injection while still inside her.

"Several people held me down, they ripped my clothes aside and the doctor pushed a large syringe into my stomach," says Jin Yani, a shy, petite woman with a long ponytail. "It was very painful. ... It was all very rough."

Some 30 years after China decreed a general limit of one child per family, resentment still brews over the state's regular and sometimes brutal intrusion into intimate family matters. Not only are many second pregnancies aborted, but even to have one's first child requires a license.

Seven years after the dead baby was pulled from her body with forceps, Jin remains traumatized and, the couple and a doctor say, unable to bear children. Yang and Jin have made the rounds of government offices pleading for restitution — to no avail.

This year, they took the unusual step of suing the family planning agency. The judges ruled against them, saying Yang and Jin conceived out of wedlock. Local family planning officials said Jin consented to the abortion. The couple's appeal to a higher court is pending.

The one-child policy applies to most families in this nation of 1.3 billion people, and communist officials, often under pressure to meet birth quotas set by the government, can be coldly intolerant of violators.

But in the new China, economically powerful and more open to outside influences, ordinary citizens such as Yang and Jin increasingly are speaking out. Aiding them are social campaigners and lawyers who have documented cases of forced abortions in the seventh, eighth or ninth month.

Chen Guangcheng, a self-taught lawyer, prepared a lawsuit cataloguing 20 cases of forced abortions and sterilizations in rural parts of Shandong province in 2005, allegedly carried out because local officials had failed to reach population control targets.

Chen, who is blind, is serving a prison sentence of three years and four months which his supporters say was meted out in retaliation for his activism.

Many countries ban abortion after 12 or sometimes 24 weeks of pregnancy unless the mother's life is at risk. While China outlaws forced abortions, its laws do not expressly prohibit or even define late-term termination.

A family unplanned

Jin, an 18-year-old high school dropout from a broken home, met 30-year-old Yang, a building materials supplier, in September 1998. They moved in together. A year and a half later, in January or February 2000, they discovered Jin was pregnant but couldn't get married right away because she had not reached 20, the marriage age.

After her birthday in April, Jin bought porcelain cups for the wedding and posed for studio photos. On May 5, they were married.

Now all that was missing was the piece of paper allowing them to have a child. So about a month before Jin's due date, her husband Yang set out to curry favor with Di Wenjun, head of the neighborhood family planning office in Anshan, the couple's home town about 190 miles east of Beijing.

He faced a fine of $660 to $1,330 for not having gotten a family planning permit in advance, so he treated Di to the Peking duck lunch on Aug. 15, 2000, hoping to escape with a lower fine since this was his first child.

The next day he paid for another meal with Di and the village's Communist Party secretary and accountant.

He said the mood was cordial and that the officials toasted him for finding a young wife and starting a family.

"They told me 'We'll talk to our superiors. We'll do our best. Wait for our news.' So I was put at ease," Yang said.

But three weeks later, on Sept. 7, when Yang was away opening a new building supplies store, Jin was taken from her mother-in-law's home and forced into having the abortion.

Why had the officials failed to make good on their assurances? One of Yang's two lawyers, Wang Chen, says he believes it was because no bribe was paid.

"Dinner is not enough," Wang said. "Nothing gets done without a bribe. This is the situation in China. Yang was too naive."

Di, who has since been promoted to head of family planning for all of Anshan township, could not be reached. Officials who answered his office phone refused to take a message and gave a cell phone number for him that was out of service.

Late-term procedures decline

Zhai Zhenwu, a sociology professor at the People's University Institute of Demographic Studies in Beijing, said that while forced, late-term abortions do still occur sporadically, they have fallen sharply.

In the late '80s and early '90s, he said, some family planning officials "were really radical and would do very inappropriate things like take your house, levy huge fines, force you into procedures."

Things have improved since a propaganda campaign in 1993 to make enforcement more humane and the enactment of the family planning law in 2001, he said. Controls have been relaxed, allowing couples in many rural areas to have two children under certain conditions.

Still, Radio Free Asia reported this year that dozens of women in Baise, a small city in the southern province of Guangxi, were forced to have abortions because local officials failed to meet their population targets.

In the province's Bobai county, thousands of farmers rioted in May after family planners levied huge fines against people with too many children. Those who didn't pay were told their homes would be demolished and their belongings seized.

Yang and Jin are suing the Family Planning Bureau in their county of Changli for $38,000 in medical expenses and $130,000 for psychological distress.

But it's not about the money, said Yang, a fast-talking chain-smoker. No longer able to afford to run his business, he now works as a day laborer in Qian'an, an iron mining town east of Beijing.

"What I want is my child and I want the court to acknowledge our suffering," he said.

A family planning official in Changli justified Jin's abortion on the grounds she lacked a birth permit. The woman, who would only give her surname, Fu, said no one in the clinic was punished for performing the procedure.

Contradictory evidence

The National Population and Family Planning Commission, the agency overseeing the one-child policy, says it is looking into Jin and Yang's case. Meanwhile, the evidence appears contradictory.

Jin's medical records include a doctor's certificate from 2001, the year after the abortion, confirming she could not have children. Doctors in Changli county say they examined her in 2001 and 2002 and found nothing wrong with her.

The court ruling says Jin agreed to have the operation. Jin says the signature on the consent form is not hers but that of Di, the official her husband courted.

Sun Maohang, another of the Yangs' lawyers, doubts the court will rule for the couple lest it encourage further lawsuits. But he hopes the case will stir debate and lead to clearer guidelines on abortion.

As she waits for the next round in court, Jin says she is too weak to work and has been celibate for years because sex is too painful.

Her husband prods her to tell her story, but during an interview she sits silent for a long time and finally says she doesn't want to talk about the past because it's too sad.

Then she quietly insists the lawsuit is something she has to do for Yang Ying, the baby girl she carried but never got to see or hold.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

K's Addendum

And after ALL THAT,

my mother informs me that her birthday is on the 27th, not the 28th.

and that figures.

One can only imagine how perfect this is...

Gwen, I WILL get you back.


(looks around, suspicious. Covers nose pre-emptively.)

btw, K is her middle name. That's not an abbreviation.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Today is my aunt Gwen's birthday. Gwendolyn K. Bennett is the baby of her siblings - the babiest baby sister to my mom (the oldest). She was born late enough in the game that she was only a few years older than my older brother.

They grew up like brother and sister.

Since she was still young when her siblings started having children, she was the default babysitter. I never remember a time when she resented that.

(Not that we never got on her nerves, or that she never "chastised" us).

Growing up, she was the favorite aunt. Mostly because she let us get away with the most stuff and had the most patience for our shenanigans...

Actually, she played a large part in much of said shenanigans - I don't see how there's anybody in my generation of my mother's side who's sense of humor was not greatly influenced by her.

One morning during the second semester of my first year of college, I was awakened by a call from my mother saying that Gwen had died.

Two weeks after her death, my grandmother - a woman who'd made a career of caring for the infirm - had a stroke, became an invalid, and passed away two weeks shy of a year of the anniversary of her youngest child's death.

The death of my aunt Gwen led to a painful, painful time in my family.

My mother's family, which to me was the epitome of togetherness, for whom "too much fun" was an impossibility -

(ask us about Bennettball, and writhe in your jealousy)

- fell apart; fractured by blame, guilt, pride....(sigh)

toppled by the departure of its bookends.

I came to the following conclusion sometime within the past year, I think, but I wanted to wait until this day to declare it in/to the universe:

I love my Aunt Gwen. I miss my K. I laid my head and cried in my sister's lap for the first time since I was a small, small child at her funeral. I cried again days later with guilt over not having had more to say to her the last time we spoke. Perhaps if I'd said something cheerful, encouraging to her, she would have seen fit to stay with us.

In the past this day has reminded some people I love of what they lost.

From now on, I plan to use this day to celebrate what we had, have or may....WILL have. I will invoke it as a means of healing in my family. And I promise the tears I cry as I write this sentence will be last I'll shed in connection with pain from her loss.

And this is not to say that she was or is any more special that anyone in my family or that my family has lost....

Just that I will use her name on this day as a symbol of happiness. Of joy. 'Cuz that's the way I remember her.

And when I invoke this day, I'm invoking the spirits of both of my Grandmother Annies, Bobby, Marie, Garrett, Garrett Jr., Punkin, Angelique....

And I encourage everyone in my family to invoke the names of someone or one's as a symbol for themselves...

And I'm going to spend the day sayin' "happy birthday" to her.

And, after that, I'm going to holler it everytime something exceptionally good happens...for the times since she's been gone and I wanted to share a moment with her.

And I give exactly three quarters of a hot damn about what anybody in earshot thinks of it.


Happy Birthday, Gwen.

I miss your nose, too. I wanna play with my mole.

Monday, August 27, 2007


sounds like the title of a neo-soul album circa 2000-2005.


I really do wish I could start back over from 2k.

I am undoubtedly in that part of my existence.

(headache, looming fatigue while stuck in an office bldg today)


Monday, August 13, 2007

Poetic Programminng

I wonder if there's any significance to Brokeback showing on Cinemax 5 Star and The Cowboy Way on OUTer Max at the same time....

(in other news, HBO has Willy running at the same time as Charlie)

Soon Cometh the Electronic Crawdad

Team CajunBot's qualified for the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge semi-final.

Though I guess they should consider a team name change since CajunBot itself is actually staying home.

Here's to the little red wagon from Laffy Ett.

do it for the Boot.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


In the past two weeks:

LCD display of a PDA

Horn on truck

Bicycle brake cable.

Well, replaced more than repaired.

For the most part, we in this society don't really understand repair anymore; only slightly more replacement of pieces.

We do seem to have a close relationship with discard-and-buy-a-new-(x).


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