The Nanfang / Blog

Did the Times Censor a Story on Foreign Abortions in China?

Posted: 11/27/2014 11:23 am

China Curmudgeon received this story in our inbox recently from an anonymous source who claims it was spiked by the Times to ensure its reporters continue to have their journalist visas renewed. There is obviously no way for us to verify whether it is real or not – or maybe satire? – so leave it up to you…

Editor’s Note: It seems fake hospital names, terminated pregnancies in the 8th month, and an author known for his satire weren’t enough clues. So to be clear to all readers: this is satirical. It was written by the lovely and talented China Curmudgeon. We sincerely apologize to those who feel misled, and can assure you we have access to a telephone should we ever need to verify something…

For pregnant expatriate women living in Beijing, the feeling is becoming increasingly common. So are the stares, the accusing looks, the friends who stop calling.

For Clarissa Wellington, it came as a surprise. After learning she was expecting last June, she announced her pregnancy to overjoyed friends at brunch in the Chinese capital, where she and her husband have lived for nearly three years.

“Everyone was congratulating us like you’d expect your friends to,” she said. “Then someone asked when we were leaving China. They all assumed we’d leave because I was pregnant.”

Mrs. Wellington recalls the mood at the gathering shifted abruptly when her husband said they planned to stay in Beijing for three to four more years.

“The whole table went silent,” Mrs. Wellington said. “They were shocked. No, it was like they were horrified.”

Air pollution levels in Beijing often fluctuate between harmful and hazardous according to a World Health Organization index, and lung cancer is the city’s top cause of death. Food products are generally considered unsafe.

While many foreign employees of multinationals find working in the Chinese capital has short-term career benefits thanks to high salaries and increasingly common “environmental hardship” allowances, their children can end up paying the long-term cost. Babies are especially at risk. As an infant’s body develops, exposure to toxic pollutants through air, food and water can lead to a wide range of lifelong health problems.

Mrs. Wellington says her plan to raise a child in Beijing for several years made her an outcast in her circle of expatriate friends. Social invitations dried up, and several rounds of Facebook un-friending left her feeling alone.

The only people who attended her baby shower were Chinese colleagues of her husband.

“The whole experience made us stop and reconsider if we really wanted to raise a child in this kind of pollution,” Mrs. Wellington said. “We did some research about what the air in Beijing does to babies, and we decided to wait. That’s why we chose to abort.”

With the pregnancy now terminated, Mrs. Wellington is still in Beijing, waiting out the last months of her husband’s contract at an international law firm. In January the couple plans to return to San Francisco, where they hope to re-conceive in what they consider a more
appropriate environment for children.

“We did it for Micah,” she said, placing a hand on her stomach. “That’s what we were going to name him. But the air in Beijing is so bad that neither of us wanted Micah to even take one breath here.”


In many expat communities in Beijing, abortion is well on its way to becoming the preferred, socially acceptable alternative to the prospect of raising a young child in the world’s most polluted capital city.

“I love kids, and that’s why we ended it,” said Mandy Thompson, a training consultant from Wisconsin who had an abortion in October, just over eight months into her pregnancy.

“Sometimes I think about if we’d decided to have the baby and then went home after a year or two,” she said. “And then I know we definitely made the right decision. The first two years of a baby’s life are the most important for development. And Beijing is no place for human beings, especially the smallest and most vulnerable ones.”

Her husband agrees. When his wife first suggested ending the pregnancy, Randy Thompson was shocked. But with friends and family all trying to convince the couple to choose abortion, he gradually warmed to the idea.

“One day we were stuck in gridlock on third ring, discussing whether to abort or not,” Mr. Thompson said, referring to one of Beijing’s notoriously backed-up freeways that encircle the city. “I remember looking out the window and I couldn’t see the sun. There was light,
but no sunlight. Right then I decided I didn’t want to bring a child into a place like this. We can have a baby later, one that will grow up healthy.”

At Beijing Pacific Family Hospital, a foreign-run clinic with several Western doctors fronting a larger part-time Chinese staff drawn from local hospitals, consultations for abortions have skyrocketed over the last year. Roughly half the expatriate couples who come for prenatal
exams also request information about ending the pregnancy.

“It’s not that they don’t want children,” said Dr. Mark Moore, an obstetrician at Beijing Pacific. “They just don’t want to compromise the child’s health. So now we’re seeing a lot of couples saying ‘let’s do the right thing.’ That means aborting now and having children later, when they’re far away from Beijing.”


Earlier this year the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences published a study calling Beijing nearly “uninhabitable” due to extreme environmental pollution. Another recent study by Chinese and foreign researchers found the long-term effects of China’s pollution
shortens human lives in the country’s north by an average of 5.5 years.

But for many Chinese citizens, national pride translates into strong support for pollution.

“China is a powerful country, and we are surpassing the West in many ways,” said taxi driver Wen Jiqing in a thick Beijing accent peppered with profanity, pausing to hack and spit. As is common in the capital, he calls heavy pollution “poor weather.”

Liu Zheng, a twenty-three year-old intern at an online retailer, moved to Beijing last year after graduating college in her hometown of Xingtai, where the major industry is coal mining. She said she could immediately feel the effects of Beijing’s air on her body. Even now, her throat still burns, and her eyes are consistently red and irritated.

“We should support the government,” Ms. Liu said on a busy street corner when asked her opinion on the city’s air quality, her voice muffled by a thin cotton face-mask. “Pollution is a natural part of development. Anyone who criticizes our pollution is against China.”

When asked if she would ever raise children in Beijing, Ms. Liu replied, “I just found out I’m sterile, and I have absolutely no idea why.”

With most parents in Beijing fighting a losing battle to keep their children healthy, many expecting couples are finding that choosing between childbirth and terminating the pregnancy can be a source of marital tension.

Allison Webber, a management consultant from Canada, is seven months pregnant and says she’s leaning towards abortion.

“I’m starting accept that forcing your kids to live here is a form of child abuse,” she said. “It might be good for my career, but the fact is, it has an effect on a child’s health. I don’t want to be responsible for giving my children asthma.”

Her husband wants to keep the baby, and points to pollution domes that cover sports fields at some of Beijing’s international schools as proof the city’s massive pollution is not prohibitive to raising a child.

“But he smokes, so what does he know,” Mrs. Webber said, sipping imported bottled water at a cafe recently.

“Actually, I know quite a bit,” her husband said from the seat next to her. “Can we not have this conversation here?”

Mrs. Webber shook her head in disgust and looked at the smog outside.

“I just can’t raise a child in this pollution,” she said quietly. “I hate this fucking city.”


Home Page Photo Credit: SCMP


Corrupt abortion doc halts operation midway to jack up the price

Posted: 10/18/2013 7:00 am

In recent months, several media outlets such as BBC and Forbes have talked about some of the problems facing China’s health care industry. Note that both describe it as an “industry” rather than a system.

A story of an unscrupulous abortion surgeon in Dongguan which appeared in yesterday’s Guangzhou Daily showed how corrupt and costly parts of this industry are.

On Monday afternoon (October 14) Wu Zhaoqun, 18, went to the Yinshan Clinic in Dongguan’s Qingxi Town to get an abortion. Before the surgery, the price of 460 yuan was agreed upon. However, three minutes into the operation, the surgeon increased the cost way up to 7,700 yuan and refused to complete it until she finished.

Wu and her boyfriend Zhang Leiqi, 21, who have just started their working lives, cannot afford that sort of money. She was left bleeding on the table for three hours until Zhang negotiated the price down to 4,400 yuan and the operation was completed.

The Qingxi Ministry of Health is investigating the incident, and a representative of the clinic has put it down to the individual doctor having a poor attitude or failing to communicate clearly.

Zhang explained that his girlfriend turned out to have a cervical cyst that needed to be dealt with before the operation. However, there is no logical reason why the cost would multiply to such an extent. His girlfriend had to endure three hours of excruciating pain during the subsequent standoff and it could have been fatal.

Now that it has appeared in a newspaper, the issue could go all the way up to provincial-level authorities and the clinic could lose its license.

This is just the latest scandal in a country in which relying on medical professionals can be a scary experience. Acts of violence, including murder, by patients against doctors are common. Last year, a People’s Daily survey showed that the majority of netizens supported these acts of violence.

Another survey conducted last year by a group of students at Hunan Normal University found that 61% of doctors in China hated their jobs, so the temptation to be corrupt can be overwhelming.

China is not necessarily a society in which mothers want their children to grow up to be doctors


Things you don’t normally see ads for: CNY specials on abortions in Shenzhen

Posted: 02/7/2013 1:25 pm

Spring Festival is right around the corner and, like Christmas in the west, retailers are all about capitalizing on the opportunity to lure people into stores and sell products.

While some pharmaceutical companies place ads, one Shenzhen hospital has gone one step further: offering a special promotional price on the cost of abortions, specifically to migrant workers.

The Shenzhen Beautiful People Professional Abortion Clinic has launched a page on its website explaining that women are beautiful, but sometimes one-night stands bad things happen.  When they do, they might want to be aware that there’s a special promotional price on abortions: only RMB 480.

The advertisement doesn’t specifically state the promotional price is aimed to coincide with the Spring Festival, but a quick glance at the calendar shows it does.

Abortion in China doesn’t carry the same stigma it does in western countries. In fact, China leads the world when it comes to abortions, with 13 million performed annually (that’s 25 a minute).


Woman in Dongguan gets pregnant three times, even though she had tubes tied

Posted: 01/31/2013 1:31 pm

A woman who had ligation surgery at a hospital in Dongguan’s Qingxi Town in 2010 is suing the hospital after getting pregnant three times since. The first and third pregnancies ended in abortions, the second was an inviable pregnancy that led to her requiring life-saving surgery, Guangzhou Daily reports.

After having a child, Mrs. Yang went to get the ligation surgery done in March 2010. In December of that year, Yang discovered she was pregnant, so went to the same hospital to get an abortion. In July 2011, she discovered she was pregnant again and this time it was an ectopic pregnancy, an inviable pregnany that is dangerous to the woman. The same hospital carried out an operation on her left fallopian tube.

In October 2011 Yang, who had two children after marrying in 1998, discovered she was pregnant again and this time had to go to another hospital to get an abortion.

She is now suing the hospital for 170,000 yuan, claiming that they botched the initial ligation surgery and the subsequent pregnancies and operations had had major impact on her health and finances. The paper learnt at Dongguan No.3 People’s Court yesterday that the hospital was only ordered to pay 8000 yuan in damages.

The court reasoned that ligation surgery does not have a 100% succes rate anyway, but it did rule that during the surgery on Yang’s left fallopian tube in 2011, the surgeons should also have operated on her right fallopian tube.

It is not yet known whether Yang will appeal.

Keep in Touch

What's happening this week in Shenzhen, Dongguan and Guangzhou? Sign up to be notified when we launch the This Week @ Nanfang newsletter.

sign up for our newsletter

Nanfang TV