A startling image of abortion

This picture has swept the Chinese media and outraged hundreds of millions of China’s citizens. It shows 25-year-old Feng Jianmei, lying in a hospital bed with the remains of her seven month old fetus.

Feng and her child were the victim of China’s one-child-policy, which licensed government officials to forcibly administer an injection to induce a late-term abortion. I have pixellated the image because it is graphic, but I invite readers to click on the image, which will open an unpixellated version.

Feng Jianmei and her aborted foetus. (Click image to remove pixellation.)

I hesitated when I was faced with the same decision. But I gritted my teeth and clicked the link. What shocked me was not the grisliness of the foetal remains, but the graphic revelation that a seven month old human foetus is not “just a clump of cells,” but a child.

The unpixellated image is not, I think, offensive. But it is startling. Its publication has already caused the suspension of the family planning officials who beat Feng and killed her child. It may well — I hope and pray — reignite debates around the world about the ethics of late term abortion, and the nature of abortion itself.

On the other hand, I suspect much of the Western press will censor the image. After all, editors of The Age deemed this image too offensive to print:

Picture by Michael Clancy. (Click image to read about its history.)

I doubt that the casualties of forced abortions will receive the sort of uncensored coverage which victims of other violent crime now attract.

12 Comments

  1. Santiago
    Jun 16, 2012

    Utterly senseless.

    Fr John, excuse my ignorance… what do you mean by “swept the Chinese media”? Swept across or has been censored? The former would seem somewhat surprising… also, do you know if there is a reason why the child was 7 months? (Not that killing it earlier would be better!) …was Feng only discovered at that time?

    • Fr John
      Jun 16, 2012

      Fair line of questioning. Perhaps I should have linked to a more informative news article. From the New York Times:

      The suspensions, ordered on Thursday, came just days after graphic photos were posted on the Internet showing a 23-year-old woman named Feng Jianmei lying in a hospital bed with the remains of the fetus, soaked in blood. The story received widespread attention online, and a few days ago it was the most popular topic on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.

      The woman’s husband, who had posted the images, told the Chinese news media that on June 2, family planning officials in Shaanxi Province forced his wife to abort her second child after the couple were told that they had violated the nation’s one-child policy.

      The couple had been ordered to pay a $6,300 fine if they wanted to go ahead with the pregnancy, he told the news media. When they failed to pay, Ms. Feng was beaten and given an injection that induced a late-term abortion, the couple said.

      Apart from its ramifications on the one child policy, the incident highlights the growing influence of social media in China, and its impact on the political regime. Another woman and her child in a similar predicament were saved only a few days later because savvy neighbours took to the web, which brought about enough international attention and consequent pressure to change the outcome. Deo gratias.

      • Anne
        Jun 17, 2012

        Fr John the image of the infant (not foetus) is the image of abortion. What appears scandalous is that this is visually appararent as a child. However there is no difference between this one and a 10-12 weeker just a matter of size.
        This visual horrifies because it is really visibly a baby and because the image has been widely published but abortion is abortion and we have these late term abotions here. There have been fourthat I know of in the last 4 months here in Victoria. No different than tghe chinese one.
        When we opened the door to abortion for the “hard” cases and because women needed a safe place to go a take their baby to be aborted, then surely it must have been known that it would lead to this this. And then why not post birth abortion (euthansing infant) after all we have permitted it to full term, and didnt fight hard enough to stop this monstrosity. euthansia next. SS coupling legalisation, absolutely. We stayed silent there was not enough ruckus made by women that they didnt want “right” to have their child killed, indeed it was the opposite.

  2. Anne
    Jun 17, 2012

    Fr John this is the second effort the post seems to bounce back and is lost. Can I just try and see if it comes through before I try again. I have been away O/seas and off board much of the time/

    • D.N.
      Jun 17, 2012

      Hello Anne,

      Good point when you comment: “.. the image of the infant (not foetus) is the image of abortion.”

      When Professor John Finnis (the Australian born legal scholar and philosopher) debated Professor Peter Singer on the moral status of the “fetus,” Finnis said he considered that outside of medical contexts use of the word “fetus” is “offensive, dehumanizing, prejudicial, and manipulative. Used in this context, exclusively and in preference to the alternatives, it is an F-word, to go with the J-word, and other such words we know of, which have or had an acceptable meaning in a proper context but became in wider use the symbol of subjection to the prejudices and preferences of the more powerful.”

      The debate was at Princeton University in 2010.
      See here: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/10/1849

      Fr John, thankfully, did not use the term “fetus” exclusively but also used the word “child”.

      • Fr John
        Jun 17, 2012

        Thanks Anne and D.N., for helping me to articulate what the picture illustrates. It first came to my attention via secular press, which used the term foetus.

        Which only added to the shock of seeing a small baby, complete with hair, in the unpixellated image. The picture, I think graphically illustrates the point Finnis makes in conceptual terms.

      • Anne
        Jun 22, 2012

        DN for 16 years I have been talking about the manipulation of language to change society. First remove symbols, then change language then society is easier to manipulate.
        “foetus” “cells” “tissue” “conceptus” do not bring to mind. “baby” “Infant” words that have a meaning and a visual attached to them. This is how the pro abortion lobby has acted dishonestly by first changing tghe language and culture and then bring in abortion to full term.
        The same will occur with “assisted suicide”
        “mercy killing” SS “marriage. change of language then it becomes easy to change the minds of people and laws.

  3. Rob
    Jun 22, 2012

    Perhaps we can clean up our own backyard before we take on the world.
    In 2007 Victorian Government records revealed that 54 babies at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne were born alive as a result of late term abortion and then killed .
    In 2008 the Brumby Government passed the Victorian Abortion Law Reform Act taking abortion out of the criminal code and allowing for abortion in Victoria right up to birth.
    As a result late term abortion has risen in that hospital alone by a staggering 600%. If we do our sums we can soon discover that there is a real possibility that the number of babies being born alive from late term abortion and killed later has risen to over 300 per annum. In Melbourne AUSTRALIA not China. So are our abortions not shocking because they are not forced , or because they are not seen ?
    What ever next shocking bit of reality we are faced with is, we need to constantly remind ourselves that the baby killed in a late term abortion is the same baby that was conceived months before. Why does late term abortion worry us more ?
    Surely this is like saying the life of a 30 year old is of more value than a 16 year old.

    • Anne
      Jun 22, 2012

      Rob there have been many of us who have fought hard against those laws but we have the pollies we deserve. We didnt put in place people of honour who value life and as a result those figures you quote which I know about and write and speak about came to pass.
      And as I said in an earlier post late term abortion and first trimester it is still the same child its only a matter of size.
      Indeed it was the same child from the instant of conception.

      • Rob
        Jun 22, 2012

        Ann,
        I was not commenting on your posts.
        I was commenting on Fr. John’s…

        ” It may well — I hope and pray — reignite debates around the world about the ethics of late term abortion, and the nature of abortion itself.”

      • Anne
        Jun 24, 2012

        It wont re-ignite debates, what I think will happen will bethat we will get global full term abortion and the severe demographic winters and then people finally realiszing that they have killed their own societies before anything will happen.
        But it wont be in this lifetime..its long way to go yet. We still have to get legalised euthanasia, and all other life defeating laws before the turn will start. I dont believe we have reached the bottom yet. Not by a long shot.

  4. Rob
    Jun 22, 2012

    BTW…any more news on the Trad priest saying the NO in his Trad parish ? I hear it was a fizzer :)