Pro-life activist faces pressure to abort

Abortion | Chinese woman who helps others with illegal pregnancies now finds herself facing the same terrible choice
by June Cheng
Posted 10/26/15, 11:15 am

When I sat sipping iced tea with Sarah Huang at a coffee shop in Southwest China last year, she spoke excitedly about her work helping pregnant women keep their babies in the face of impossible pressures caused by the country’s one-child policy. Her two cell phones rang continuously as women begged her for a place to hide, for advice on what to do, or for help escaping a forced abortion.

Now, Huang (not her real name) is the one in need of help: She is nearly four-months pregnant with her second child, putting her at odds with the family planning policy that has had a stranglehold on the country for the past 35 years. When I congratulated her on the happy news, she just laughed.

“Pregnancy should be a happy thing, but there are so many pressures and problems for me,” she said. 

Huang fears she will be found out and forced to abort her baby, her husband’s job is on the line, and everyone around her is telling her to do the one thing she’s spent so long telling others not to do: abort.

While the one-child policy has grown increasing unpopular and national officials have even loosened them in recent years, those changes haven’t necessarily been felt locally, Huang said. Situations like hers happen “much too often,” she said. Huang has counseled and helped more than 100 women dealing with problems related to the one-child policy—especially in rural areas where authorities still kidnap pregnant women and perform forced abortions. The pressures are enormous for couples who work government jobs and those unable to pay high fines.

A few days ago, the school where her husband teaches informed the couple all teachers and their wives must have a mandatory health checkup by the end of the week, to ensure there are no unlawful pregnancies. Huang is terrified, knowing if she goes, she will be coerced to abort her baby.

“I cry a lot, and I pray a lot,” Huang said. “I know I can’t have an abortion, and I believe that God has a way for us, so we keep praying.” Even if the baby lives, he or she would not have a hukou, or household registration, the ticket to healthcare, future school enrollment, and the ability to travel.

Matthew Li, founder of China Life Alliance, a pro-life ministry in China that partners with Huang, said she has saved more than 85 babies and her house is always filled with pregnant mothers needing a safe place to stay. 

“It’s ironic that the very woman who has been a rock to so many others is now in need of the same kind of help,” Li said.

Huang and her husband have discussed different options for what to do—they could get a divorce until she has safely given birth to her child, then remarry. But that option is less than optimal, since “God doesn’t approve of divorce,” she said. Plus, her neighbor tried a similar tactic but government officials discovered the plan. It’s been three years now, and the couple remains unable to remarry. Their child still has no hukou.

Even if her husband quit his job now, Huang could still be found out and forced to abort, and the child would still be undocumented, she said.

“There’s so much fear and pressure living in China,” Huang said. “There’s no freedom.” 

It’s also difficult to find support, as she’s too afraid even to tell members of her church about her pregnancy, unsure whether someone might rat her out, she said. When Huang told a friend about the pregnancy, the friend’s demeanor suddenly changed. She asked Huang how she could do such a thing. The friend has since stopped speaking with her.

Some friends of Huang’s in America invited her to stay with them until the baby is born. But she doesn’t have the money for such a big trip and worries about how long it would take to get a visa to the United States. 

For now, the Huangs continue to pray for a way to keep their baby as the deadline inches closer. 

“We have peace, we know that what God is going to do, man cannot undo,” Huang said. 

June Cheng

June is the East Asia correspondent for WORLD Magazine. Follow June on Twitter @JuneCheng_World.

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