By Chai Ling
A Heart for Freedom has taken over 22 years to write. The process itself was one of the most painful, wonderful and freeing experiences I’ve ever had.
For this particular post, I want to answer a few hard questions I’ve received about my story. As the first Chinese woman to ever discuss coerced abortions in a personal narrative like this one, I knew I was taking a risk in sharing openly.
It appears the book is shocking to many throughout the Chinese community, because even though 86 percent of women have undergone at least one abortion, “you just don’t talk about these things”. It is also shocking to many American Christians. They cannot understand why or how a woman could have repeat abortions. And I think that is part of why I had to write.
Why is the number of abortions so high in China? Why do women have more than one abortion?
Statistics in China show a remarkably high number of repeat abortions among young women. A combination of factors contribute to this:
1.) The One-Child Policy: This is hands-down the largest problem, and abortions have skyrocketed since the policy was enforced in 1980.
2.) The “Per-Couple” rule: The policy is one child “per-couple”. Most abortions in China happen among single women who are not allowed (by law) to have children. Parents strongly encourage daughters (coerced into abortion) to obey the policy; in this case to save a daughter from shame or trouble with family planning officials.
3.) Lack of sex education: Even when women have 2 or more abortions, they almost never receive information about how to avoid this situation in the future, even after undergoing an abortion in a hospital or clinic.
Confucianism says to women: Obey the father when you are unmarried; obey the husband when you are married; obey the son when the husband dies. Women in China do not have the right to say no when men desire sexual encounters. It is a cultural issue, one less known to the west.
When a young woman becomes pregnant and is single, she is automatically inclined to abort because of what she has been taught about abortion. If she does not, her university will expel her (forever), her parents will coerce her to abort, or she will be forced by police. After a number of these experiences, abortion becomes a natural reaction and women are not necessarily forced but may go alone to a clinic for an abortion. Without any other information or option (besides hiding from police and leaving family forever), it has become a part of life in China.
How did the members of your church react to the abortions you had?
My small group was very compassionate – one sister said she knew people in America who had 5 abortions…it is the “good girl get pregnant syndrome” and because they did not prepare, they would have sex and get pregnant. The culture here is also shame-filled, but women do not have to deal with police if they choose to keep the baby. In China, there is no choosing to keep the baby or give her up for adoption. There’s no movie like Juno that helps young women explore options.
In the US, people are just beginning to understand that the women who had abortions under coercion and shame are just as much victims as the babies who were aborted. If they were given the information, support and a real choice, many of them would have chosen to keep the baby. That’s what we’re here for–to advocate for a culture that loves mothers with compassion and support, rather than judgment and condemnation.
We have Christ’s authority to heal, not hurt
Ephesians 2:10 says that we are God’s masterpiece. I hope people will rise up to realize the calling God has given to us! We can undo the hurt caused to pregnant women through misunderstanding or coercion. We are to be a people who bring beauty out of the ashes, who give a garment of praise instead of a spirit of heaviness.
People who love the unborn: I urge you to love and pray for mothers in China. Please pray that they would receive good information, would choose life for their babies, and would be allowed to give birth without going into hiding. If you think you may have hurt women in the past who were considering abortion or who have aborted, please take a few minutes to ask Jesus to forgive you and help you love, not judge, and pray, not push. I think most people would be surprised to see how many women have had abortions and not told anyone, and how many women were given no choice, particularly in China.
To the women who have experienced coerced abortions from family members: friends or officials, I pray that this book would help you shake off all the hurt and injury you’ve endured…that’s what Ephesians 2:10 is all about.
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To read Nikki’s review of this book, click here.