14 September 2005

"Enemies of the State?"

Hannah Beech contributed a gripping article in the September 19 issue of Time magazine entitled "Enemies of the State?" The article recounts the story of Li Juan, a rural Chinese woman, who was attacked by government officials recently. The officials, in trying to enforce a "one-child policy," forcefully performed an abortion on Li Juan. Hannah Beech goes on to explain that the Chinese federal government has tried to stop both forced abortion and forced sterilization, but the reform has not reached rural areas like Li Juan's. One brave man, named Chen Guangcheng, who was not allowed by the federal government to study law because he is blind, has gone to the federal courts about these atrocities. Despite violent harrassment from regional goverments, he is continuing to bring the case before Beijing courts. Beech concludes the article with the story of Hu Bingmei who has been permanently disabled by a botched, and forced, sterilization procedure.

A number of things struck me about this article. These regional governments are committing atrocities. It would be difficult to overstate the depth of violent depravity which reigns in the hearts of the people who do these things. Also one cannot write about these events without cheapening, in some way, the pain these women are feeling. I cannot imagine what they are going through. On the other hand, the bravery of Chen is brilliantly admirable. Common grace has made a real hero out of this man. He has been discriminated against; he has been put down by society; but his attitude is not one of self-pity or even one of revenge. He works within the system that unjustly discriminated against him to help alleviate a deeper and more important injustice.

I have not commented much on politics in this blog, and I intend to keep it that way, but I also found it difficult to resist reflection on the way abortion is defended in the West. For instance, the stark evil of these acts serves to point out the real weight of the argument of overpopulation. I am not a sociologist, and I do not pretend to understand the problem of overpopulation, but this is not the answer.

These events also serve to point up the fallacy of the argument that no one should be forced to take care of another person. The argument, as I have heard it, is that the constitution nowhere obligates one individual to care for the life of another. Pregancy would have to be an exception to that rule, pro-choice advocates say. But the Chinese government is only doing under the Communist system what Westerners allow mothers to do under individualistic democracy. The government does not wish to care for the life of the child, so it eliminates the unwanted liability.

In the end the Western reaction to what is happening in China shows a gross inconsistency on our part. When the woman does not want her child, abortion is a choice. When she does want the child, abortion is an atrocity. Is the autonomous will of the individual mother so godlike that it can determine the personhood of her own offspring? If human autonomy is that powerful, then one wonders what objection can be offered against those officials who would choose to eliminate liabilities to the state by murdering other people's children.

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