Shenzhen, China. We sweat and struggle our way past street hawkers poking umbrellas at us, others offering everything from snakes to edible nests coated in bird saliva.  A spindly, wizened old man accosts us with a monkey, backing us toward a gaping hole in the road, demanding money and yanking at the string tied around the non-performing creature’s neck.  We escape the monkey man only to be set upon by peasant children sent by their families from the countryside to sell flowers and melons.  We find a dirty grey building with a red cross at the top, the Luo Hu People’s Hospital.  My husband makes enquiries in Mandarin, and a conversation ensues with a couple of young nurses, accompanied by much pointing at my stomach, protruding with almost eight months’ worth of baby.

Down a corridor, past bare rooms containing slim beds, chipped bowls and old equipment, upstairs to see a doctor.  She examined my stomach as I stood, head hanging.  I was very big, she told my husband.  We could have it done there, but it might be safer for us to go to another hospital.  Being foreigners, perhaps they didn’t want to take the chance.

The nurse found a taxi for us and instructed the driver.

We found ourselves outside the Shenzhen People’s Hospital.  We were pointed to where abortions were done.  It was busy.  The conversation took place in the foyer with lots of interested on-lookers gathering close to listen in.

David explained what we were seeking.  They understood.

Seven and a half months?

No problem – do them all the time.

What about eight months?  Yes.

How much?  $800.

How was it done?  “We inject a solution into the uterus which causes the placenta to separate, cutting off the supply of oxygen and food to the baby.  Then you go into labour and deliver the dead baby (the nurse vigorously rolls her hands in a downward expelling motion).”

We were not asked for reasons.  During the whole dialogue only one question was asked, though it seemed more a statement than a question: “You don’t want the baby.”

The father who had danced around the apartment whooping and shouting as he clutched the positive pregnancy test, found it difficult to answer.  The baby kicked.  I felt hot and claustrophobic.

Of course we want our baby, we would never do such a thing.  I wanted to shout. “We’ll think about it, we’re not sure,” my husband said and we walked out into the rain.  The heavens were weeping, I thought.

We had wanted to know for ourselves just how easy it was to get an abortion in China.

We’d heard a lot about it – that it was cheap and criteria-free for those who wanted it and, in the name of population control, regularly forced on those who didn’t.

were whipped to coerce them into agreeing to abortions (according to Ningxia Legal News.)  The husbands were ordered to strip bare and lie prone to the floor while beaten on the buttocks with a stick as many times as the number of days their wives had been pregnant.  Crying out in pain, they “surrendered”.  The paper said officials had achieved “total victory.”

We’d read a recently published first-hand account of night raids on rural women in their final days of pregnancy, dragged off for abortions and sterilizations while their husbands looked on helplessly, of fetuses piled behind the toilet, of mothers killing themselves when learning their child was female.  (The Independent, Sept. 11, 1991)

Watching “Untimely Ripp’d”, a documentary first aired in Hong Kong inlate 1989, we saw Dr. Lio Gui Zhen pull a fetus wrapped in newspaper out of a refrigerator.

The weather is hot, she said: “It would be time-consuming if burial is arranges each time.”

We’d heard the doctor explain matter-of-factly how live fetuses “capable of crying” provided valuable body parts for medical purposes.

We’d listened to Dr. Chan Ayshian, head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Shenzhen People’s Hospital tell the interviewer how they “abort the fetuses before they become human.”

In their eyes, our unborn child whose jerking movements I’d seen via ultrasound at three months, whose determined heartbeat I’d heard pounding in the doctor’s office, whose kicks had grown more insistent with passing weeks, and whose rhythmic hiccoughs were clearly discernable, was not human and a candidate for abortion.

We’d been studying the situation of China’s violation to the free will of its citizens through the most inhuman population control programme in the world and amassed much material.

However, to cross the border from Hong Kong and see for ourselves just how willing the Chinese medical people were to take our baby and to know that others, the same age as our own and even older, were being routinely terminated without a thought just down the hall, left us feeling shell-shocked.

If she had been a Chinese baby, the authorities might have decreed her death.  We could leave, our baby intact.  But what of those couples who don’t want to end the lives of their in-utero offspring?

Where is the outcry on their behalf?

Melinda Jordan is an Australian freelance journalist.  Here baby daughter was born shortly after the trip to Communist China.