Feng Jianmei and the Central Horror
There is a time for everything.
There is a time to mourn. There is a time to be angry. There is a time to reflect. In the recent revelation concerning Feng Jianmei and her daughter, it is time for all three.
In mid-June, the story broke. A 23-year-old Chinese woman, Feng Jianmei, was forced by local family-planning officials to have an abortion.
The story in short is this: Feng Jianmei lived in a rural area of China, the north-western province of Shaanxi. She was married to Deng Jiyuan, and already had one child. She became pregnant again and carried her child for 7 months, only 2 months shy of birth. Local family planning officials found out that she was pregnant. As is universally known, China has a one-child policy, meaning that couples are only allowed to have one child – if they want a second, they must pay a “social maintenance fee” which varies depending upon geographic location – it would have been 40,000 Yuan for Feng Jianmei. Because her husband only made 4,000 Yuan a month, he left for the mines of Mongolia to boost his income so that they may be able to pay the fine. While he was gone, 12 officials confronted Feng and tried to force her into a car. She refused and fled to her aunt’s house, they then broke through the gate of her aunt’s home. She then fled to nearby mountains and hid at a friend’s home. The officials again followed her and found her hiding under a bed. She was forcibly taken to a local hospital and blindfolded. She was forced to sign a form that she could not even see. At that point, the proper chemicals were injected by syringe into her belly. The cocktail of chemicals killed her daughter, and then induced birth. About 30 hours after the injection, Feng Jianmei gave birth to her baby girl, but she was dead.
She was later quoted as saying, “I could feel the baby jumping around inside me all the time, but then she went still.”
More than anything else, what has roused people to fury and action is the photograph of Feng Jianmei and her daughter, laying side by side on the hospital bed, one alive, one dead. I beseech you to look at the photograph, and allow the image to shock your conscience.
Seeing these two people on the hospital bed and hearing the story should bring our conscience to mourning, arouse our anger, and hopefully lead our minds to serious reflection.
Thankfully, a huge cross-section of people are speaking up about this issue, not the least of which being the Chinese people themselves. They have been a buzz on online social networks and elsewhere. There is a serious discussion going on amongst journalists, academics, and others about the one-child policy and it’s end or at least modification. Some discussion being on moral grounds, and other discussion being on economic grounds.
There is so much in this story that ought produce mourning and anger. There is the one-child policy itself, the common practice of intentionally and selectively aborting baby girls, the shredding of parental rights, the disregard of the marriage relationship, the disdain of the local officials, the violence toward the mother, the lack of international condemnation, and of course the central horror: the intentional killing of an innocent human being.
That China even has a one-child policy defies reality, goodness, and natural law. It is good and natural that a marriage relationship would produce children. Demanding that the most natural outcome of marriage be curtailed is a perversion of the institution and promise itself. This policy is a feeble but destructive attempt to alter the basic realities of human union.
That baby girls are selected and intentionally aborted in massively higher numbers than baby boys is shameful, and it is not just in China, this is around the world. It has been noticed in countries all over the world, from Asia to Europe and even to North America. Last month, our own American congress could not even garner enough support to pass a law banning sex-selective abortions.
That ‘local family planning officials’ (the phrase in itself should make you shudder) and the government believe they have the right to dictate a married couple’s legal sexual relationship, and the outcome thereof, is a massive assault on parental authority over their children and basic family decisions.
That these officials acted when the husband had left to make more money is a disregard of marriage in the highest order. It is a display of hate towards the husband and a show of craftiness a serpent would admire.
That the local officials were willing to perpetrate a violent attack on this woman and actually did so shows the numbing and twisting effect that a corrupted culture can have on its people. It was reported that when they found the mother hiding under a bed, they laughed.
That condemnation wasn’t wider and deeper is troubling. Our own U.S. President has condemned China in the past, and rightly so, for internet censorship and environmental breaches. To not do so in this event is at least questionable. It’s very true that we as ordinary citizens don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, and perhaps there is quiet pressure on China. And maybe there are more effective ways to change China’s behavior that loud proclamations, but at the end of the day, truth must be spoken to power, in some form or another. Our President has spoken to us before about teachable moments, and presented with Feng Jianmei’s story, it may be time to stand up and teach.
But the central horror in this story is not the one-child policy itself, nor the disregard for the marriage relationship, nor the lack of condemnation. The central horror in this story is that an innocent human being who would have lived a life was intentionally killed by another human being. Feng Jianmei’s daughter, 7 months old in the womb, 2 months from birth, was injected with heart-stopping chemicals. It was not an instantaneous death, the little girl writhed in pain before she died. This daughter was not consulted about her death. This ending of innocent life the central horror that leads us to mourning, anger, and reflection.
The mourning and anger is obvious. The reflection gets a bit more difficult.
The reflection is so difficult because we’re haunted by the nagging thought that will not leave…the thought that the central horror of this story may very well be true with every abortion, except those that are intended to save the life of the child or mother. With an abortion, a young and innocent human being is intentionally killed by another human being. It is an inescapable truth. It is a pervasive practice around the world and incredibly common in our own country. Whether the child is a month old or seven months old, the result is the same.
With this issue like no other, our vision and wisdom have been clouded. It has been obscured by supreme court decisions, heated talk, murdered abortionists, graphic pictures, and street-side protestors. At times, it is disorienting and confusing. But when the dust settles, we are left with a central horror, that whether a mother consents or is forced like Feng Jianmei, an innocent child is intentionally killed. This is not a natural death. Natural deaths are to be mourned, but an intentional killing is a much more difficult tragedy.
We must open our eyes and face what is staring at us. We must allow a story like Feng Jianmei’s to shed light on the central horror of any abortion, forced or not. Let the traditional arguments and counter-arguments dissipate, even if only for a moment, and see it for what it is.
No one is innocent in this. We have all either been active or passive in supporting it. I am guilty just as any other.
If we allow this to lead us to mourning, anger, and reflection, then perhaps we can move toward grasping ours failings and turn from our ways. There is such a thing as personal and corporate redemption. Let us seek it, and rest in it.