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After running afoul of China's One Child policy, a Chinese couple expected to be hit with a fine. But instead, officials demanded that the woman -- who was in the eighth month of her pregnancy -- have an abortion, according to a new Al Jazeera report.
In telling the couple's story, Al Jazeera reporter Melissa Chan gained access to a hospital where a distraught Xiao Ai Ying said doctors had given her womb an injection. As Chan describes it, the two spoke while Xiao awaited a procedure to remove the dead fetus.
The couple's story, along with a separate video interview with Xiao's husband, is heartrending. And what makes it even more unusual, according to Chan, is that it occurred in the city of Xiamen, which sits on the coast across from Taiwan. Earlier reports of forced abortions in China have mostly been centered in the rural areas of the country's western regions.
In fact, the Al Jazeera report has many of the same sad details as a 2007 story from NPR's Louisa Lim, who spoke to a couple who had just undergone a similar experience.
In that case, Wei Linrong of Guanxi Province said she was seven months' pregnant with her second child when family planning officials came to her house and demanded that she report to the hospital for an abortion.
That report also included a reason why forced abortions and crackdowns might be more the work of regional officials -- and not the result of a central edict:
Official figures published by the Xinhua news agency shed some light on why a forced abortion campaign might be judged necessary. They show that the Baise government missed its family planning targets last year. The recorded birth rate was 13.61 percent, slightly higher than the goal of 13.5 percent. This is significant because the career prospects of local officials depend upon meeting these goals.
Al Jazeera's Chan notes that the central government does not condone forced abortions -- and that, in addition to financial rewards for having just one child, parents can be fined as much as $40,000 for having a second baby.
The country's official China Daily says that some 13 million abortions are performed in China each year. But that report also warned that the actual number could be far higher, as "figures are collected only from registered medical institutions."