“Painless”, “cozy”, “cheerful”, “3-minute”, “sweet dream” abortions in Tianjin, China

We’re in a Chinese hospital for an ultrasound to confirm our first pregnancy. The examining room is a bit of gong show — there’s no privacy, and forget lining up; a group of women are elbowing each other for position, crowding the examining area, each trying to shove her paperwork in the doctor’s face ahead of the others while the doctor’s busy seeing Jessica. But we don’t care, it’s a spiritual moment for us: we’re going to hear our child’s heartbeat for the first time, see his or her first picture, get real live confirmation that there definitely is a baby growing inside Jessica and that we are indeed parents. Awestruck doesn’t even begin to capture our feelings. “I want to abort it,” a woman says bluntly in Chinese, in front of everyone, as she thrusts her paperwork at the doctor. That was our first personal encounter with abortion in China.

China’s Abortion Epidemic

That was two years ago. As our language ability develops and abortion becomes increasingly ubiquitous and brash in China, we’re running into it more often. If I take a taxi and the radio’s on, chances are I’ll hear a commercial about once every 30 minutes that always starts with the same unflinching dialogue:

“Oh no! I’m pregnant! What about my career? What will I do?”
“Don’t worry! It’s no problem. You can just go to blah-blah hospital and get a 3-MINUTE, PAINLESS abortion!”

Only once have I heard them use the euphemism of “woman’s surgery” for abortion; usually they’re just unapologetically explicit. Students have told me how they were “supposed to have a baby brother” but didn’t, and most of them assume we’re planning to have more than one child because we didn’t get a boy the first time. In a country with an on-going legacy of post-birth infanticide, killing babies before they’re born doesn’t carry near if any the stigma that it does in North America, as our taxi driver last week demonstrated by bringing it up in casual conversation:

Driver: “How many kids do you have?”
Me: “Just one, but we hope to have more later.”
Driver: “Yeah, then you can have a boy!”
Me: “We don’t really care if it’s a boy or a girl.”
Jessica: “Besides, you can’t really choose that anyway.”
Driver: “Sure you can! You just wait until the belly’s big enough” [he gestures] “and then you can see. If it’s a girl you can get rid of it, but if it’s a boy, ‘Oh! We want it!'” [thumbs up sign].

Sex-selective abortion may be small talk fodder for some in China, but pre-marital pregnancy is another story:

“The moral outrage over having a child before marriage in our society is much stronger than the shame associated with abortion,” said Zhou Anqin, the manager at the clinic in Xi’an, which performs about 60 abortions each month, mostly on students aged 24 or younger.
[...]
“Luckily, in Chinese culture people generally feel that before the actual birth, you don’t yet have an actual person, so we have cases of induced abortion at seven and eight months along,” Li said. “I think this is to China’s advantage from a population control point of view … China has absolutely no need for the so-called ‘right to life’ argument, no need to introduce ideas about abortion as murder and so on.” [Full article]

IMAGE 00026 Painless, cozy, cheerful, 3 minute, sweet dream abortions in Tianjin, ChinaThe Chinese abortion epidemic is even skewing gender ratios in North America. In my hometown of Surrey, B.C., Canada where our daughter was born, there were signs taped to the walls in the ultrasound clinics telling us that the techs and doctors would absolutely not tell us the gender of our baby. I later confirmed what the nurses in the NICU had told us: too many baby girls were being killed. Turns out that a school board administrator in the 1990’s noticed that the gender ratios in greater Vancouver elementary schools were skewed in areas with large East Asian and Indian communities (see Canada’s Missing Daughters and Ultrasound ads promote female abortion). (In Canada you can abort your child for any and no reason because a person’s legal status depends on her physical location relative to a few inches of birth canal (or, it used to); if she’s on the inside, then she has not yet magically transformed from a not-a-person into a baby. Arbitrarily disallowing minority women who have a gender preference to know the gender of their not-a-baby seems just a TAD hypocritical to me.)

I try not to share the nastiest parts of our China experience on the internet. It’s rude and misleading to show up in someone else’s country and make a big deal out of the absolute worst or exceptional and freakish experiences. All our societies have brutal, inhuman aspects to them, but China takes it to a whole nother more explicit level by foregoing the faux-moral fig leaves to which Western societies still hypocritically cling. In blunt, unapologetic ‘honesty’ China carries some things further toward their logical conclusions than North Americans are currently willing to go or admit to (in the West we’re still in denial about being unable to grow Judeo-Christian moral absolute apples — like the inherent value and dignity of people — from secular, relativistic trees).

I could share some things, with photos, that people do and accept/tolerate in China that are so mind-blowingly brutal and animalistic that they make ubiquitous abortion look minor by comparison, even to the hardest-core pro-lifers — but I wont. I will, however, translate something below, because abortion in China is invading everyone’s consciousness here with increasing regularity. And since it actually invaded our home this week, I’m blogging it as a significant aspect of our China experience that we can’t ignore.

Magical Abortions… at a discount!

If you buy a pregnancy test today in Tianjin, China (we’re not pregnant), it comes with one of these (below), because if you’re potentially pregnant in China the first thing you’re apparently supposed to do is consider killing your baby. And judging from the amount of advertising, pre-birth infanticide is not only much more convenient than traditional infanticide, it’s a cash cow:

DSC00662infanticideadedit1 Painless, cozy, cheerful, 3 minute, sweet dream abortions in Tianjin, China

This is an abortion discount card for a local hospital. Mouseover the Chinese text below to see the pronunciation. The front says:

PAINLESS ABORTION Assistance Card无痛人流援助卡
“Assistance amount: $50 援助金额:326元
Tianjin City Family Planning [Government-]Appointed Hospital 天津市计划生育定点医院
Painless Abortion Assistance Hotline 无痛人流援助热线

And then it has the address, bus routes, and website. The back is worse:

DSC00661infanticidead21 Painless, cozy, cheerful, 3 minute, sweet dream abortions in Tianjin, China

The back compares three kinds of abortion: abortion via drugs 药物流产, ordinary abortion 普通人工流产, and (in the pink column) “Blah-blah Hospital’s Hysteroscopy Obtain Embryo Surgery” XX医院宫腔镜取胚术 (a Tianjin City Women’s Federation Designated Medical Treatment Aid Hospital 天津市妇联指定医疗救助医院). Here’s what the pink column says:

  • Surgery eligibility 适应症 (“medical indication”):
    • “up to and including the 11th week.”
  • Surgery time 手术时间:
    • “three minutes” 3分钟
  • Anesthetic 麻醉:
    • “short-term effect I.V. anesthetic” 短效静脉麻醉
  • Patient’s surgery experience 手术者感受:
    • “sweet dreams during the surgery, wake up promptly, cozy and cheerful after the surgery” 术中甜梦术后即醒舒适愉悦
  • Harmful side-effects 不良反应:
    • “very few complications, won’t affect subsequent pregnancies, can go to work the next day” 并发症极少不影响再次怀孕转天即可上班

Under the chart it says you can get:

  1. “a free ‘early avoidance early pregnancy detection’/ultrasound exam (valued at $20 USD)”
    免早早孕检测/免费B超检查价值126元)。
  2. “$30 USD off an abortion (Please present this card when visiting)”
    凭此卡可抵扣人流手术费200元就诊时请出示此卡)。

Related blog posts:

Related news links:

Canada’s “fourth trimester abortion”:

On the Kermit Gosnell scandal:

ffldeathpenaltysmall Painless, cozy, cheerful, 3 minute, sweet dream abortions in Tianjin, China

8 thoughts on ““Painless”, “cozy”, “cheerful”, “3-minute”, “sweet dream” abortions in Tianjin, China

  1. Great article. Abortions should ALWAYS get to us. And what do you mean POLITICALLY INCORRECT? We can’t talk about what abortions really are? What is the difference between America who has a MARCH FOR LIFE every year and China who has this issue constantly. Rarely people have the guts to actually say it outloud.

    You wrote: (in the West we’re still in denial about being unable to grow Judeo-Christian moral absolute apples — like the inherent value and dignity of people — from secular, relativistic trees).

    Almost poetic. Did you come up with that yourself? Are you saying that people are trying to grow good moral apples for secular trees? If so, then I agree that the west tries to do that. China does too. Agreed that someone shouldn’t come into a country and bash the country from within especially being a foreigner. (I’m probably guilty of that too.) But the brashness and boldness of that woman, “I want to abort it!” is almost life changing, if not literally life altering.

  2. I agree with Sascha, great essay. Kinda politically incorrect, but what the hey … The ancient Romans in their inglourios empire did the same kinds of things. Treated women so brutally, skewed their population balance so severely, huge consequences. Wonder how that will play out here …

  3. My point isn’t so much to say “look how bad China is”, although putting up with this appalling side of Chinese society is unavoidably part of our life here. I’d rather use China’s more explicit, “honest” approach to abortion to pose an “If… then…” question to Westerners: “If abortion is morally permissible, then…” In the West I think we, collectively, aren’t willing to truthfully finish that sentence. We’d rather just get our political victories and who cares if it’s logically and morally indefensible or ethically contrary to our cultures’ best, most deeply cherished ideals.

    You wrote: (in the West we’re still in denial about being unable to grow Judeo-Christian moral absolute apples — like the inherent value and dignity of people — from secular, relativistic trees).

    Almost poetic. Did you come up with that yourself? Are you saying that people are trying to grow good moral apples for secular trees?

    This gets into a whole deeper issue, a tangent from the main topic, but I couldn’t resist putting it in anyway (hence the brackets). I don’t think you can produce a moral imperative from a relativistic, God-less worldview. Does every individual have inherent, inalienable, equal value? Why? And how then can you deny a whole gender the vote, enslave whole races, or kill the most vulnerable and still claim that value?

    When we still try to claim a universal value, it’s like we’re trying to take apples from the tree we’ve chopped down (or think we’ve chopped down) and tape them to an artificial tree, saying “Look! See? An ‘apple tree’!” It’s hypocritical, weak, and self-destructive. If you want to make a scapegoat out of our Judeo-Christian heritage and chop down that apple tree, that’s your choice, but quit plagiarizing its apples. If you don’t have a reason to claim the values you claim, you ought to own up to it.

  4. @Magnus: I was referring, in a somewhat sarcastic way, to a feature of the social climate of the country where I live — this is the way “they” would see the article.

    Plagiarizing the apples — yes. Your illustration would infuriate Establishment folks here, zealous as they are for all manner of freedom. They go to great lengths to make it difficult for your/our point of view to be seen/heard. The zeal makes me quite curious. They’ve been politically successful and socially mostly successful, too. Ironic that on this particular topic, in this particular environment, you’ve got more freedom to speak than you would “back home.”

    Sigh — but I’ve moved the discussion even farther afield. Sorry. Wonder how the Establishment here would feel seeing what you see. But I think I can guess rather accurately. Thanks for posting the article, the points are well-taken.

  5. Greetings from Tianjin – ( a stones throw from the Big Wheel!), intesting articles on your website and you’re grasp of Chinese allows some insights denied the rest of us.

    I would take issue with your comment which you seem to make as a generalised remark and which seems to be the basis of your perceptions where you write – “I don’t think you can produce a moral imperative from a relativistic, God-less worldview”.

    Thats a big call, I think the “Chinese relativistic, God-less worldview” has had less impact in terms of lives lost due to predatory wars that say the God driven world view of evangelical Christians such as George Bush and his ilk.

    That said I would like to thank you for your website and hope you can keep writing it.

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