.- Echoing other reports of coercion in enforcement of Chinaâs one-child policy, Chinese authorities have reportedly forced mothers to abort their children in a crackdown on the countryâs underground surrogate pregnancy industry.
One U.S. investigator of China's one-child policy said the alleged coercion was ânot surprising.â In the latest incident, Reuters reports that three young surrogate first-time mothers were discovered by authorities hiding in a communal flat in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. District family planning and security officers broke into the apartment, corralled them into a van and drove them to a district hospital where they were compelled into a maternity ward.
"I was crying 'I don't want to do this'," a 20-year-old woman called Xiao Hong told Reuters. She was pregnant with four-month-old twins.
âBut they still dragged me in and injected my belly with a needle,â she said, reporting that the incident took place in late February.
She said the government officers had forced her thumbprint onto a consent form before carrying out the abortion.
Another surrogate mother, a 23-year-old from a village in Sichuan province, said officers made her take pills and then surgically removed her three-month-old unborn child while she was unconscious.
"I was terrified," she said to Reuters.
The official Guangzhou Daily newspaper quoted district family planning officials as saying the women were unmarried and acting as âillegalâ surrogates. The paper also reported that the mothers had agreed to undergo âremedial measuresâ in accordance with the law.
Official media coverage critical of surrogacy has led some observers to expect more action against the practice in the future.
According to Reuters, underground networks of surrogacy agents, hospitals and doctors have grown in recent years as wealthy infertile Chinese couples hire surrogates to produce babies for them.
The surrogates are often confined to secret flats for most of their pregnancy to avoid detection. Medical staff at public hospitals and health clinics who are part of the surrogacy network discreetly perform fertility, obstetrics and childbirth procedures.
Surrogacy has been on the rise globally. India in particular has become a center of surrogacy for infertile and homosexual Western couples.
In China, prospective surrogate mothers are paid between 50,000 to 100,000 yuan ($14,460) per pregnancy by some businesses, attracting many women from poor rural areas. The average per capital income for rural households is around $600. An estimated 25,000 surrogate children have been born in China.
A March investigation by the Population Research Institute (PRI) reported that the one-child policy and coercive abortion had links to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The UNFPA claimed to have mollified the one-child policy and to have âplayed a catalytic role in introducing a voluntary reproductive health approach in China.â
Colin Mason, Director of Media Production at PRI, had conducted the investigation. In March he told CNA that coercive measures undertaken by the government are âworse now than ever.â
"Crippling fines, intense pressure to be sterilized, the flagrant display of quota information, and even the seizure of âillegal childrenâ by the government are commonplace," Mason continued. "The UNFPA insists that its presence has led to the removal of these measures. It has not."
Under President Barack Obamaâs recent omnibus spending bill, the UNFPA is slated to receive $50 million in U.S. funding.
During the George W. Bush presidency, the UNFPA was denied a reported $235 million because of investigations linking it to coercive abortion practices in China. Funding for such groups is banned under the Kemp-Kasten Amendment.
CNA spoke about coercive abortions in China with PRIâs Colin Mason in a Friday phone interview.
He reported that he didnât run into âthat manyâ cases of forced abortion.
âItâs not something people are willing to talk about when they think will get into trouble,â he said.
However, he said the law is clear that any couple with a child over the policy limit will be fined a certain amount, âfive to seven times the yearly wage.â
The policy also encourages such couples to âoptâ to be sterilized, but Mason explained âthe law made it clear that thatâs not really an âoption.ââ
Responding to the report about one woman being coerced to sign a consent form before her alleged forced abortion, Mason told CNA âThat doesnât surprise me at all.â
âItâs entirely possible that that happened,â he said.
âThe UNFPA claims that they essentially eradicated coercion. Thatâs clearly not the case.â
âBased on what I saw, the government will go to any length it thinks it needs to.
âThe tragedy is not only that this is going on but that Americans are so ignorant about it. The Chinese are trying to keep this a well-kept secret, and to certain extent Western aid groups are aiding and abetting it by keeping it under the radar.
âThey realize that if the international community is made aware of this situation, they would be horrified.
âWe in the West, even in this media age, know so little about it.
âWe keep hearing more stories, we keep being surprised.
âAnything at this point shouldnât surprise us.
âThe idea that things are getting better in China is complete nonsense,â he told CNA, saying his opinion was based on the ease with which he discovered cases of coercion in China.