Forced Abortions in China: An Interview with Reggie Littlejohn

Reggie LittlejohnWomen’s Rights Without Frontiers (WRWF) is a human rights organization that opposes forced abortion, gendercide, and sexual slavery in China. Representing this unique, broad-based, international left-right coalition of pro-choice and pro-life advocates, WRWF’s president Reggie Littlejohn recently sat down with Georgiana Constantin, a Romanian law school graduate and a regular contributor to GJIA Online, to share insights from her experience in fighting the tragedies of forced abortions. GJIA: What are the psychological and social consequences in China when women know that the state can exercise control over their bodies?

RL: The Chinese Communist Party boasts that it has “prevented” 400 million births through its One Child Policy. This is greater than the entire population of the United States. China has approximately 13 million abortions per year. That’s 35,616 abortions a day or 1,484 per hour. Many of these are forced, and most of those births “prevented” involve female fetuses.

China’s One Child Policy is violent towards women and girls in the following ways:

1.    Forced abortion can occur up to the ninth month of pregnancy. Some forced abortions are so violent that the women themselves die, along with their full term babies.

2.    Women who have violated the policy are often victims of forced sterilization, which can lead to life-long health complications.

3.    A document leaked out of China in November 2009 discusses methods of infanticide, including the puncturing of the skulls and injecting alcohol into the brains of full term babies, usually girls, to kill them during labor.

4.    Because of the traditional preference for boys, sex-selective abortion of girls is common—a form of “gendercide.”

5.    Because of this gendercide, there are an estimated 37 million more men than women in China today. This gender imbalance is a major force driving sexual slavery of women and girls in Asia.

Forced abortion shatters women psychologically. China has the highest female suicide rate of any country in the world. The U.S. State Department’s 2012 Human Rights Report on China stated that the rate of female suicide in China has gone up from 500 to 590 per day. The report noted that the suicide rate among China’s women is three times the suicide rate among the country’s men. Two of the factors cited include “the traditional preference for male children, [and] birth limitation policies.” This is the true war against women.

GJIA: What are some medical problems that can occur?

RL: University of Hong Kong found that children in China are more likely to face serious health complications, including death, if their mothers have had multiple induced abortions. The study concluded that having more than one abortion increases the risk of low birth weight (LBW) in subsequent pregnancies. Indeed, women who have had three or more induced abortions are at five times the risk of preterm birth in a subsequent pregnancy.

The study explained that nearly two thirds of neonatal deaths are related to low birth weight. For children surviving infancy, LBW increases the risk of neuron-developmental problems, respiratory tract infections, and behavioral problems. According to the study, those with very LBW suffer from conditions including cerebral palsy, blindness, impaired hearing and learning disabilities. Besides harming the child, these health problems put extra financial strain on parents.

GJIA: Out of all the horrific stories, which of the abortion tales stand out most in your mind?

RL: In June 2012, Feng Jianmei was beaten and forced to abort at seven months. WRWF broke this story to the west. The European Parliament took action, condemning forced abortion, especially under China’s One Child Policy, and citing the case of Feng Jianmei.

Also, in 2009, I testified with a woman whose pen name is Wujian. She testified behind a privacy screen, with a black scarf wrapped around her head for fear of retaliation against her family. She had suffered a brutal, late-term forced abortion in which the nurse showed her the severed foot of her dismembered baby.

Wang Liping’s baby was forcibly aborted at seven months. The doctor asked her to pay for the disposal of the body of the fetus. When she said she didn’t have any money with her, the nurses laid the body of her aborted baby next to her in the bed.

GJIA: What is the mindset that would drive a government to be so inhumane? Is there danger that other countries might follow China's example?

RL: This is the hallmark of communist governments: the mass killings of their own citizens. It is estimated that the former Soviet Union under Stalin and the Chinese Communist Party under Mao together murdered 85 million civilians—a statistic that boggles the mind.

And yet even this number is dwarfed by another hidden category of victims of communism: victims of China’s One Child Policy. The Chinese Communist Party boasts that it has “prevented” 400 million lives through the policy. That’s more than the entire population of the United States.

The One Child Policy is causing a slow-motion demographic disaster. Not only does the nation now suffer from a destabilizing gender imbalance, but also there are not enough young people to sustain China’s rapidly aging population. Why, then, does China continue this policy?

I believe that China’s One Child Policy is keeping the regime in place. It is social control masquerading as population control. The Chinese Communist Party wields forced abortion as an instrument of terror to keep its people down. The infrastructure of population control coercion can be turned in any direction to crush dissent.

Why am I doing this work? Whether China will turn and become a free, democratic nation, or whether China will continue down the path of totalitarian destruction is the greatest issue of the twenty-first century, and it has vast implications for our own national security. Supporting democracy in China should be among the highest priorities of the leaders of the free world.

There is, of course, a danger that other countries may institute coercive birth limits as well. In our view, it is never right to sterilize or force abortions on women, under any circumstances.

GJIA: What can be done to stop these tragedies?

RL: People can sign our petition to stop forced abortion in China. Regarding gendercide, the sex-selective abortion of baby girls, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers has launched a campaign called Save a Girl. In this campaign, we have a network of field workers in China who identify mothers at risk of forced abortion or gendercide. Our field workers establish contact with these women and offer them financial help to save their babies. We are stopping gendercide and forced abortion, one baby at a time.

Reggie Littlejohn is Founder and President of Women's Rights without Frontiers (WRWF). She graduated from Yale Law School and has represented various Chinese refugees in their political asylum cases.