Mother given ‘forced abortion’ in China granted refuge in New Zealand, after harrowing story

A Chinese mother who was given a forced abortion after falling pregnant with her third child have finally been granted refugee status in New Zealand.

The mother – along with her husband, her 19-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son – appealed to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal after their initial decision to grant refugee protection was refused last year.

The family’s story highlights how China’s former one-child policy and current two-child policy continue to leave a painful legacy, and have been responsible for countless abortions in the world’s most populous country.

The pair married in China in 2008, having met in December 2000. The wife already had a daughter from her first marriage.

In April 2010, the mother of two discovered she was pregnant with another child, a boy.

Under Chinese law, the pair had to pay “a large sum of money” for a birth permit to have the second child. He was born in February 2011 and the family paid further money to register him.

After the son’s birth, Government officials regularly visited the couple’s home from 2010 to 2016, demanding the husband and wife write and sign a pledge agreeing to have no more children.

When they refused, the couple revealed, officials would threaten and insult them.

In addition to intimidating visits to the home, the husband’s employer also exerted pressure on him to not have further children. The state-owned company told the husband he had to either agree to have no more children or resign.

When he refused to do either, the company reduced his income to the minimum wage and subjected him to further harassment, which led him to resign.

In December 2015, the wife discovered she was pregnant with a third child. The news was received with “much joy” by the family.

However, Government officials soon found out and visited the family home to demand that the mother of two have an abortion. 

Court documents note that officials “pushed and prodded the wife and told her she was a pig for wanting so many children,” causing her to faint.

Shortly afterward, she began to experience heavy bleeding and went to the hospital fearing the worst.

Doctors and nurses treated the couple coldly after they learned it was her third pregnancy. They failed to undertake any scans or other tests to check on the health of the baby or to see if there was a heartbeat.

Instead, the wife was taken into theatre and was told she was having an operation to “remove the remainder of the foetus”

Due to the trauma of the event, the wife has trouble remembering what happened next but remembers seeing her baby being sucked out a tube and into a drainage pipe during the operation.

She doesn’t know if her baby was alive at the time or had miscarried.

However, neither she or her husband signed any consent forms for the procedure and believe officials directly or indirectly killed their child.

The Tribunal is satisfied that the events at the hospital amount to serious harm in the form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and has resulted in psychological damage for the wife.

It found that the family had a well-founded fear of being persecuted if made to return to China and ruled that as refugees they cannot be deported.

The family can remain in New Zealand for the foreseeable future, but have been unsuccessful in getting pregnant again, since they lost their third child.  

Although China’s brutal one-child policy was ended in 2015, it has now been replaced by a similarly draconian two-choice policy and the devastating consequences of forced abortions, sterilizations, abandoned newborns, and Government abductions are still ongoing.

Chinese-born filmmakers Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang exposed some of the consequences of the policy by retelling some of the stories of some of those who lived through it. 

Early on in their One Child Nation documentary, which can be viewed on Amazon Prime Video, an 84-year-old midwife revealed she was unsure how many babies she had delivered, but had performed a total of between 50,000 to 60,000 sterilizations and abortions.

“I counted this out of guilt, because I aborted and killed babies,” the midwife, Huaru Yuan, continues. “Many I induced alive and killed. My hands trembled doing it.”

One mother in China told the BBC that she would have liked a second child but was also forced to have an abortion.

She said: “You either go willingly or they come for you.”

Another mother told the BBC, that before the one-child policy was relaxed, she was forced to have an abortion. Speaking of the ordeal she said: “My baby didn’t die immediately… it kept on struggling inside me.

“It broke my heart, the next day it was born still alive… it cried. The doctor said don’t look at it, you’ll have nightmares.”

(Image credit: Shutterstock: ID #703730317)

North Korean defectors face forced abortion on return to country

Forced abortions are an on-going human rights abuse in North Korea, particularly for repatriated defectors, according to experts interviewed by Fox News.

For female defectors from North Korea and are subsequently forcibly returned to the country after escape attempts, if they are found to be pregnant, they are frequently subjected to forced abortions and sometimes infanticide shortly after birth

Olivia Enos, Senior Policy Analyst for Asian Studies at The Heritage Foundation said:

“Terrifying reports from female defectors depict undergoing forced abortions after they fled to what they thought was freedom in China, only to be repatriated back to North Korea by authorities in China,”

“Other women from North Korea recount having aborted babies born alive or giving birth in ordinary prison camps only to have border guards smother or drown their babies before their very eyes.”

A 2014 United Nations Human Rights Council report found that “blood tests are routinely conducted on all repatriated women”. Those found to be pregnant are made to endure abortions through a number of methods, including “inflicting trauma to the uterus through physical force to induce expulsion such as beating, kicking” as well as “forcing pregnant women to engage in heavy physical work to induce pre-term labor or premature separation of the placenta from the uterus”.

In cases where a mother is permitted to carry her child to term, the report also pointed to prison guards then suffocated or drowned the newborn.

The majority of forced abortions and infanticides are performed on mothers and their children, repatriated from China. “Forced abortions are carried out on the premise that all repatriated pregnant women could be carrying babies conceived by Chinese men. The women are not asked what ethnicity the father of the child is,” the UN report states

With little access to North Korea, up to date data is hard to attain but there is little reason to think that the situation has improved significantly.

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK Catherine Robinson said:

“The barbarity being report in North Korea is shocking. Forced abortion is not restricted to North Korea however and is a terrible evil which we must work to end wherever it happens.”

Abortion already underway as the Court of Appeal overturned forced abortion ruling

Documents from the Court of Appeal which ultimately stopped a state enforced abortion from taking place last month, revealed that the first stage of a three day abortion procedure was being carried out during the Court hearing.

At the end of June, Justice Nathalie Lieven ruled that forcing a woman with a moderate learning disability to have an abortion against her will was in her “best interests”. In a last minute hearing the next working day (Monday 24/06), three judges in the Court of Appeal overruled this decision, forbidding doctors from performing an abortion on this woman.

The full ruling of the Court of Appeal has now been released and it reveals that the woman was already undergoing a “pre-operative assessment” for the abortion, which was in fact being carried out during the hearing at the Court of Appeal.

The “pre-operative assessment” formed what would have been part of a three day invasive process which would ultimately have ended the life of her baby.

The ruling also reveals that the judges overturned Justice Lieven’s decision because she gave insufficient consideration to the wishes and feelings of the pregnant woman, as well as the views  of the woman’s primary carers – including her own mother – who believed it was in her best interests not to have an abortion.

The Court of Appeal judge, Lady Justice King said Justice Lieven “made no mention of AB’s [the woman’s] wishes and feelings or of the views of CD [the woman’s mother], the social worker or the Official Solicitor. This was, in my opinion a significant omission.”

The Court of Appeal also brought to light the “well established” principle that “the court does not take into account the interests of the foetus but only those of the mother”.

Clare McCarthy from Right To Life said:

“Between the original ruling and the decision from the Court of Appeal, the life of the 22-week-old baby hung in the balance and was literally hours away from being aborted. In fact, the pre-operative assessment for the abortion was already underway. If this last-minute hearing did not take place when it did, this baby would not be alive.

“As the ruling from the Court of Appeal made clear, the right to life of the baby held no weight in court, as the “the court does not take into account the interests of the foetus but only those of the mother”. This is despite the fact that the baby, this late in gestation, would in some cases have been able to survive outside of the womb.

“Although it is a major relief that the Court of Appeal came to this decision, and that the forced abortion did not take place, it is a chilling case that demonstrates the power the court holds over life and death.

Forced abortion: is it really in anyone’s “best interests”?

Last week the Court of Appeal unanimously overturned a ruling forcing an abortion on a 24-year-old, mentally disabled woman (hereafter, AB), by Justice Lieven in the Court of Protection. The original judgment was released this week and it is worth examining to understand how we almost arrived at that horrific point where the state can force one of its own citizens to have an abortion. There is a lot to say but I would like to consider just two points of interest: the woman’s disability and the application of the “best interest” test. 

Firstly, in considering the “best interests” of AB, Justice Lieven comments that she has “to focus on AB as an individual and her best interests, not societal views in termination [nor] the rights of disabled people in general.” Yet disability cannot simply be disregarded in favour of focusing on an AB as ‘an individual’; her disability is a fundamental part of who she is and ironically the crux of the judgment rests on this.  There are specific human rights obligations which arise here.

In 2018, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) released a joint statement mapping out a human rights based approach to the sexual and reproductive health needs of women with disabilities. Particular emphasis is rightly given to the obligation of a state to ensure that women with disabilities are protected against forced abortion.  States should also ensure that women have access to evidence-based and unbiased information.

While the Justice believes AB cannot fully understand the decision at hand here, questions should be asked about the nature of information given to her. The Barrister leading the NHS legal team in this case, told the Court of Appeal that AB “…was told she would go to sleep. She would have an operation and when she woke up the baby would no longer be in her tummy. But she would get a new doll.” This is both patronising and deliberately misleading information. The Justice herself said that “as the pregnancy has developed AB has more understanding that she is pregnant, and that means she has a baby inside her, and that it will be born.”

CEDAW and CRPD are clear that women should not be forced to undergo an abortion against their will, or without their informed consent, though I appreciate that even with unbiased and evidence based information, by virtue of her disability,  AB still might not be able to give informed consent.

All parties were unanimous in their agreement that AB did not have capacity and therefore the judgment focused on the application of the ‘best interests test’ to determine the best course of action.  The purpose of this test, as summarised in Aintree University Hospital v [James], is to focus on the individual and not just medical conduct.  A ‘best interest test’ must contain “a strong element of substituted judgment” taking into account: past and present wishes/feelings of the person, other factors he would consider, beliefs and values likely to influence their decision if they had capacity, and full consultation with carers and other interested parties. Justice Lieven feels weight cannot be given to AB’s feelings/wishes as she considers them unclear and subject to change. 

However, she is clear in her judgment that AB “is happy that she is pregnant and likes the idea of having a baby. I think that it shows if she was making the choice, at this moment she would not want a termination.”  

Whilst it is felt she cannot make ‘the choice’, the most surprising element of this judgment for me is that no weight is given to the opinions of carers and interested parties.  Alongside AB, her mother (a midwife by profession), her social worker and the official solicitor strongly felt the continuation of her pregnancy was in her best interests. Although the local authority adopted a neutral stance, they still laid out their plans for care of the child should AB continue with her pregnancy.

If the purpose of the best interests’ test is to focus on the individual and not solely medical conduct, why was only medical opinion given weight in this case? And why was there so little apparent focus on “the individual”? The Supreme Court is clear that “decision-makers must look at…welfare in the widest sense, not just medical but social and psychological…and they must consult with others who are looking after [them]…in particular for their view of what [their] attitude would be.”

If Justice Lieven feels harm is inevitable whichever path is taken here, surely the opinion of those who have worked closely and extensively with AB over a number of years are therefore best positioned to advocate for her and make this judgment.  Consideration, yet no weight, was given to their views and in my opinion, this was a dangerously narrow and partial application of the ‘best interests’ test.

It is difficult to fully analyse just what has gone on here, the details are still incomplete and the full picture will not be clear until the Court of Appeal judgment is released. However, it is a judgment riddled with contradictions and with little regard for the rights of disabled people. The Justice herself recognises how immensely intrusive a forced abortion would be and the draconian nature of a state ordered termination on a non-compliant woman, yet proceeds in this manner anyway, preferring to rely on tentative psychological speculation as opposed to the voices of those who, professionally and personally, are best placed to make this decision.

Thankfully overturned, this judgment feeds into wider debates about the role and reach of the State in such medical decisions and questions have to be asked as to what weight, if any, Courts are giving to those closest to the person in question. We must continue to be vigilant as this area of law develops, as forced abortion might just be the tip of the iceberg.

All opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of Right To Life UK.

All opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of Right To Life UK.