Although the one-child policy in China was ditched a couple of years ago, the law stil prevents Chinese couples from deciding for themselves how many children to have. Couples are still prevented from having more than two children and suffer stiff penalties if they do not comply. And of course there are still the societal and economic pressures to make sure that at least one of the two children is a boy.
So what happens if you already have a girl and your wife is pregnant with your second child? Well, if you are this man in eastern China, you force your wife to keep on having abortions until you get the baby boy you desire.
Unfortunately, there are only so many such procedures that the human body can cope with, and after having four abortions in one year (!) the poor woman died. According to the Jianghuai Morning News, the couple had a girl four years ago and tried for a second child under the two-child policy. But the husband wanted and insisted that their second child be a boy. So when each conception resulted in a girl, he forced his wife to have an abortion so that they could try again for “right” result. Be damned to the consequences for his wife’s health, let alone for that of his unborn children.
When his wife’s health was destroyed by the repeated abortions and she fell ill, the husband divorced her. As part of the settlement of their marriage the wife was paid 17,000 yuan (2,500 USD) and she used that amount to pay for her (unsuccessful) hospital treatment. Her ex-husband did not visit her in hospital and now that she has died, he is planning to marry another woman. I do hope that she is aware of his previous relationship history. (This story has shades of Henry VIII does it not?)
Now it is illegal for doctors to tell mothers the sex of their unborn child precisely so that parents do not decide to abort their girls (which has led to an horrific imbalance of boys over girls in parts of the country). However, unlicensed medical practitioners operate illegally to fill the demand and inform parents of their unborn child’s sex. In this case the woman (who came from a county near Wuhu in Anhui province – about 200km inland from Shanghai) found out the sex through x-rays.
This story is tragic: five deaths in one family in a little over a year. The tragedy has a number of villains, the father and husband is the obvious one. As are the unscrupulous medical operators who inform parents of the sex of their unborn child knowing the likely reason for the parents wanting to know. The societal pressure to have boys is also to blame.
But finally the two-child policy reinforces and magnifies this societal pressure by giving parents only two legal opportunities to get the “right” sex. As long as the Chinese government continues to proscribe how many children its citizens can have, tragedies like this one will occur.