Feng Jianmei was ordered to pay a fine equal to £4,000 / Rex Features

Shocking images highlight case of woman forced into termination at seven months

Graphic photos that show a foetus whose mother was forced to have an abortion seven months into her pregnancy have shocked web users in China after they were posted online.

The pictures, which show the mother lying prone in her hospital bed with the bloodied foetus beside her, have reopened the debate over the country's controversial population-control measures. Authorities in north China's Shaanxi province forced Feng Jianmei to have the abortion after she did not pay a 40,000 yuan (£4,000) fine and exceeded the country's one-child limit. She and her husband already have a six-year-old daughter. China's controversial one-child policy, which was introduced more than three decades ago, requires couples to limit their families to one child.

There are exceptions for ethnic minorities and people with disabilities, while rural families can have two children if the first is a girl. In some cities, more than one child is permitted if both parents are single children.

The provincial government said in a statement on its website that a preliminary probe confirmed the case was "basically true". Saying the reports had caused "unease", it reaffirmed its commitment to women's rights and said investigators have recommended action against those who performed the abortion.

Deng Jiyuan, Ms Feng's husband, told the Global Times newspaper his wife almost killed herself out of panic. He said five men from the local family planning bureau forcibly gave his wife an injection three days after blindfolding her and forcing her to sign an agreement to have the abortion.

The bureau said the couple had agreed to terminate the pregnancy, but Mr Deng disagreed.

"They did not notify us until several days before the injection, when they asked us to bring 40,000 yuan before the deadline they set, which we failed to do," he said.

China insists the family planning policy is necessary because the country does not have the resources to deal with a population growing out of control. China is the world's most populous country, with a population of 1.3 billion. The government estimates that more than 400 million births have been prevented by the policy.

The policy is widely despised, and there is pressure to reverse it as China's population is ageing swiftly, prompting fears that there may not be enough young workers to sustain economic growth at current levels for much longer.

The penalty for breaking the rules on planned birth is the imposition of a fine and a loss of benefits such as free education and healthcare, but for many wealthy couples in China this is a price worth paying.

"This was very common in my hometown, even when the baby was close to term, women were forced to abort. Population control is fine, but what about those rich people who are allowed to have eight children," wrote one web commentator from Nanning, referring to a case in December last year when a wealthy couple in Guangdong had eight babies, including several born illegally to surrogates. "In 100 years, or even in 50 years, you will see how ridiculous population control is," a commentator from Ningbo said.