Outrage After Grisly Photo Of Chinese Woman Forced To Abort In Seventh Month

China's local family planning officials -- and the country's one-child policy -- are under fire after a woman took an extreme and public response to a late-term forced abortion. Caixin speaks to the heartbroken would-be mother.

A detail of the photo of Feng Jianmei alongside her aborted fetus
A detail of the photo of Feng Jianmei alongside her aborted fetus

BEIJING - A woman in the western town of Ankang posted a gruesome photo after she was forced to have an abortion in the seventh month of her pregnancy. After the photo spread across the Internet in China, authorities in the Shannxi province have announced that they are sending a team to investigate, and will "deal with the case seriously in accordance with the law."

On June 4, Feng Jianmei said she was forceably injected with an agent to induce an abortion, and 36 hours later her child was stillborn. One week later, as a protest, Feng posted the photo of herself along with her dead baby on the Internet. Public reaction was immediate, and intense. (The graphic image can be seen here)

Feng told a Caixin reporter that she was forced into the abortion because she can't afford the 40,000 RMB ($6,300) penalty imposed by the local family planning department.

Deng Giyuan, Feng's husband, said that his mother has been hospitalized for cancer recently, and they can't possibly afford the fine.

Feng Jianmei said that on June 2 more than 20 staff from the town's family planning department came to her home and arrested her. On the way to the hospital, as she resisted, she said she was beaten by the authorities.

During the injection, lethal to the fetus, none of her family was allowed to be present. When her father-in-law heard the news and rushed to the hospital he was prevented from entering the obstetrics ward.

Li Yuongjiou, the deputy chief of Ankang's family department, denied the accusation and told a Caixin reporter that "Feng was not forced to abort. A lot of us tried for days to educate her. She agreed to the abortion herself."

Li also pointed out that in China the abortion is allowed up to 28 weeks. It's not illegal to conduct "medium-term" induction of labor.

However, Li also admitted that in his town the family planning department's target of implementing the one-child policy – set at 95% - has not been achieved for two consecutive years, and there is consequently particular emphasis this year on enforcement of government policy.

The Caixin reporter was told by an anonymous family planning department chief in Hebei that Feng was most likely injected with Ethacridine, more commonly known as Lifannuo. It's a very powerful bactericide widely used in the late 1980s and early 1990s when China's implementation of the one-child policy was in full swing. Although the medicine has been prohibited since 1997, certain regions in China still use it.

*This is not a direct translation, but a digest item of two articles in Chinese (1,2) by Wang Su and Ren Chongyuang

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Saving The Planet Is Really A Question Of Dopamine

Our carelessness toward the environment could be due, in part, to the functioning of a very primitive area of our brain: the striatum.

Ad scuba-diver and brain coral

Stefano Lupieri

PARIS — Almost every week, a new scientific study alerts us to the degradation of the environment. And yet, we continue not to change anything fundamental in our systems of production and habits of consumption. Are we all suffering from blindness, or poisoned by denial?

In his popular books Le Bug humain (The Human Bug) and Où est le sens? (Where is the Sense?), Sébastien Bohler, a journalist in neuroscience and psychology, provides a much more rational explanation: The mechanism responsible for our propensity to destroy our natural environment is in fact a small, very deep and very primitive structure of our brain called the striatum.

This regulator of human motivation seems to have been programmed to favor behaviors that ensure the survival of the species.

Addictions to sex and social media

Since the dawn of humanity, gathering information about our environment, feeding ourselves, ensuring the transmission of our genes through sexual intercourse and asserting our social status have all been rewarded with a shot of dopamine, the 'pleasure hormone.'

Nothing has changed since then; except that, in our society of excess, there is no limit to the satisfaction of these needs. This leads to the overconsumption of food and addictions to everything from sex to social media — which together account for much of the world's destructive agricultural and energy practices.

No matter how much we realize that this is leading to our downfall, we can't help but relapse because we are prisoners of the dopamine pump in the striatum, which cannot be switched off.

Transverse section of striatum from a structural MRI image

Lindsay Hanford and Geoff B Hall via Wikipedia

Tweaking genetics 

According to Bohler, the only way out is to encourage the emergence of new values of sobriety, altruism and slowness. If adopted, these more sustainable notions could be recognized by the striatum as new sources of dopamine reward. But there's the challenge of promoting inspiring stories that infuse them with value.

Take the photo-collage exhibition "J'agis ici... et je m'y colle" ("I'm taking action here... and I'm sticking to it"), a collection of life-size portraits of residents committed to the energy transition, displayed on the walls of the French coastal city of La Rochelle.

Backed by the French National Center for Street Arts, photographer Martin Charpentier may be employing artistic techniques, but he's also tinkering with neuroscience in the process.

Les Echos
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