Following international outcry, China's Population and Family Planning Commission issued an order to ban the use of forced abortion when enforcing its one-child policy. The directive is being hailed as a significant step forward in human rights.
All Girls Allowed founder Chai Ling called it "awesome progress."
"When God told Moses that the Red Sea would part, it did. Last year a prophecy was given that God would end the One-Child Policy in China, and I rejoice that God is already doing it," she said in a statement. "The media's exposure of this injustice has been invaluable, and people in China and around the world are standing boldly against injustice. This has made China understand that they can no longer hide the brutal truth."
Under China's one-child policy, family planning officials have long dragged women pregnant with an additional child to hospitals where they were forced to have an abortion.
One case that drew international attention and widespread media coverage in June involved a 7-month pregnant woman, Feng Jianmei. After being beaten by family planning officials, she was forced to sign an abortion "consent" form and toxins were injected into the brain of her unborn daughter. She gave birth to her deceased child on June 4. A picture of her lying on a hospital bed next to her baby was released.
All Girls Allowed spokesperson Kat Lewis believes the attention this case gained placed immense pressure on the Chinese government.
"If there had been no graphic picture of her (Feng Jianmei), no media firestorm, no global outcry, and no anger voiced by social media users in China …. then the central government might never have done anything," Lewis told The Christian Post.
"In fact, a photo that was almost identical to Feng Jianmei's (of another woman and baby following a forced abortion) was released in 2006, but the media didn't pick it up and no one really tracked down the perpetrators."
She also credited prayer from Christians for the change.
All Girls Allowed confirmed with the family planning office in Chongqing that the order to end forced abortions, particularly late-term abortions, and sterilization was issued on Aug. 30. The order came from the Population and Family Planning Commission in Beijing.
In July, during the commission's semiannual meeting, Minister Wang Xia had called upon policy enforcers to "absolutely stop performing late-stage abortions," saying they should only "guide people to do family planning voluntarily," according to All Girls Allowed.
"This contrasts starkly with earlier family planning statements in China, which have called for mandatory abortion as a 'remedial measure' and encouraged enforcers to 'spare no effort' in terminating the pregnancies of women who lacked birth permits," said the human rights group.
The use of forced abortion was on the books in family planning policies in 18 out of 31 provinces in China as late as last year, said Lewis.
Despite progress, there are still other forms of coercion that the government is utilizing to keep families from growing. This includes the huge fines that families are forced to pay for an additional child.
Xiao Zheng and Xiao Guo are permitted by law to have a second child because they both come from single-child families. But after the birth of their second child they were fined more than $11,000 which is several times the couple's annual income. Local planning authorities say the married couple did not submit the proper application on time.
"Even with Minister Wang's call to end late-term forced abortions, the policy remains coercive: it still threatens parents with huge fines and job loss for having a second child," said Ling.
"Human rights will take a back seat as long as the government continues to use family planning fees as a major revenue source. China cannot genuinely claim that the policy is 'coercion-free' until it no longer threatens parents' livelihoods and ability to provide."
More than 13 million abortions are performed each year in China. Family planning leaders claim that the one-child policy has prevented 400 million births over its 32 years.