At a House hearing punctuated by the wails of a Chinese woman mourning a baby that was forcibly aborted 17 years ago, lawmakers said there were signs that increased domestic and international pressure on Chinese officials to end the country’s one-child policy was beginning to have an effect.
The recent publication of a photo of despondent 23-year-old Jianmei Feng lying on a hospital bed with her bloody, aborted 7-month-old child beside her has “sparked global outrage,” said Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, global health and human rights.
With that picture, “People are finally seeing the gruesome reality of China’s one-child policy,” said Mr. Smith, who noted that Ms. Feng’s husband, Deng Jiyuan, has been beaten and is in hiding, and that Ms. Feng remains confined in a government hospital.
But Mr. Smith also noted that several prominent Chinese researchers told the China Economic Times earlier this month that the one-child policy should be adjusted “as soon as possible” to avert a demographic crisis, and 15 Chinese scholars Friday openly said the one-child policy “does not accord” with human rights and China’s need for sustainable economic development.
“It now seems that consensus in China is building towards reforming the policy,” said Rep. Joseph R. Pitts, Pennsylvania Republican.
Human rights activist Reggie Littlejohn told lawmakers there were signs of a “breakthrough” with State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland and Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, speaking out against forced abortion, citing the case of Ms. Feng.
“Forced abortion is not a choice,” said Ms. Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers.
The publication of the gruesome pictures has clearly rattled officials in Beijing. The young couple were called traitors by some in China, but the European Parliament recently cited them in a strong condemnation of China’s one-child policy and forced abortion, Mr. Smith said.
Witnesses at Monday’s hearing, including a number of longtime critics of the one-child policy, suggested a number of responses, including restricting funds for the United Nations Population Fund and urging U.S. corporations to reject coercive family-planning practices in their factories in China.
“Numerous forced-abortion tragedies occur in China every single day,” said Pastor Bob Fu, president of China Aid Association, which this year helped blind political activist Guangcheng Chen and his family escape house arrest and come to the United States.
The harsh realities of forced abortion were brought to the hearing via a telephone call from Yanling Guo, who fled China with her husband and is now in Bangkok.
In 1995, Ms. Guo said through Mr. Fu, she was eight months pregnant and staying with her sister. One morning, Ms. Guo was accosted by family-planning officials, taken to a hospital and forced onto a delivery table. A masked health care professional came in, felt for the baby’s head and “stuck a big, long, fatal needle into my abdomen,” Ms. Guo said.
Someone later pulled the baby out of her and laid it on a nearby table. “It was a baby boy. My son, my son,” Ms. Guo said, her voice dissolving into deep sobs.
The panel waited for her to regain her composure, but eventually Ms. Guo’s husband took the phone to finish her testimony. “Remove this evil family-planning system and restore human rights,” he said over his wife’s still-audible cries.