BEIJING – A public outcry has been raised over the plight of a woman who's considering an illegal abortion at 8 months because the child would violate China's restrictive birth policy and would cost her husband his job as a police officer.
Members of the public have been phoning local officials in the couple's Yunnan province community to inquire about the case, and an online travel service reportedly has offered the husband a position if he loses his government job.
The case has rekindled debate over whether employment in the public sector should be used to enforce the policy that limits urban couples to one child in cases where both husband and wife have at least one sibling.
The 41-year-old woman, who spoke on condition that she be identified only by her surname, Chen, said in a telephone interview Monday that the couple felt under pressure to abort their second child to keep her husband's job with local police.
"I'm fearful," Chen said. "If my husband believes I must abort the child, there's nothing I can do."
She also grew uneasy about the public attention her case was drawing. "I am worried he would lose his job even after we lose the baby, if the situation gets messy."
Chen said the couple had hoped for a policy change that would allow them to have a second child but found her unexpectedly pregnant earlier this year in violation of the current rule.
Wen Xueping, a family planning official in Yunnan's Chuxiong prefecture, said the couple will not be forced to abort the baby but have been warned of the consequences of having it. Couples who violate the child policy face hefty fines and — if they have government jobs — face being sacked.
Wen said members of the public have been calling his offices to inquire about the couple, whose case has garnered much attention on China's social media.
"No way will we force them to have an abortion," Wen said. "But there also is the suspicion that the couple wants to avoid the punishment for breaking the rules by stirring up public interest."
In 2012, the Chinese public was angry when a 23-year-old woman in the northern province of Shaanxi was forced to have a late-term abortion. Local family planning officials were punished, and Beijing sternly warned against any late-term abortion.
The state-owned news website The Paper said James Liang, a senior executive of the web travel service CTrip, has offered the man in Yunnan a job if he loses his position on the police force.
Many critics are calling for an end to the one-child policy altogether, saying that China cannot afford to be an aging society. They say that taking away a family's livelihood is too draconian a punishment — especially for a family that will now have two children to raise. Some observers have said the couple should have obeyed the one-child policy and should not expect any exemption.
China has eased the policy to allow for more couples to have a second child, but urban parents who are not only children themselves still can have only one child, as in the case of Chen and her husband.