Pro-Choice Coercion: The Testimony of Chuang Liu

I am the second child of my parents, which should have been pure happiness to my family. Yet, it could be anything but joy for those families having a second child in China from the 1980s to last year (2015). In 2015, Chinese government decided to end its decades-long one-child policy and allow two. During these thirty-five years, every woman who was found pregnant for the second time would be forced to have an abortion supervised by Family Planning Office. This office would search around for ‘illegal’ pregnancies and bring these women for abortion, and they did this under the command of the government, with reinforcements, so there was no way to fight back. It was common that they forced women whose pregnancy was more than 8 months to abort. The only way to escape from this carnage was to hide or flee away from home. However, the attempt came with a heavy cost. The Family Planning Office would coerce the family members to hand over the pregnant woman with threats including confiscating valuable items such as furniture and appliances, sometimes even smashing the walls and roof of the house. If the family did not give in, they would be heavily fined for the birth of the child. The penalty was called a ’social child-raising fee’, and the amount of penalty was usually equal to the annual income of the family. For those women unable to pay the penalty, their child would be called a ‘black child’ which means unregistered in the Chinese National Household Registration System. Being excluded from the family register, these children do not legally exist and as a result cannot access most public services such as education, and they are not protected under the law.

My mother became pregnant in 1990, having given birth to my brother four years earlier. She was found pregnant when the pregnancy was 8 months. The Family Planning Office immediately gathered a squad with dozens of officers and came to the house to bring my mother to have an abortion. My parents, my grandparents and my aunt were in the house. They tried to show hospitality to the officers and invited them for lunch, while attempting to help my mother escape. Most of the officers sat down around the table for meal, but they still left a few officers to guard the perimeter, including all the doors and windows except one. There was one particular room which was built as a small canteen with a window. However, this business attempt had failed, so the window was closed for years. The officers were familiar with this community – they knew the window was never opened, so they did not guard there. When my aunt found out this opportunity, she told my mother discreetly and helped her escape from the siege. Then my mother ran away and hid in the house of her cousin for two days, then she hid in the house of her uncle for a while and then managed to hide in her sister’s house for a while before she finally came home hiding in the shed where the family raised pigs. She was accommodated in a loft above the pit for pigs; she hid there in the day and came out to work in the family cake shop at night until she gave birth to me, on 7 February 1991. After I was born, my family paid 1680 yuan (equivalent to a year’s wages) in 1991 for my ‘social child-raising fee’.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well (Psalm 139:13).”

Chuang Liu