Abortion forced on `defective families'

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The Independent Online

Science Editor

Chinese women face compulsory abortions and sterilisation to weed out genetically "defective" children under a "health-care" law, representatives of families affected by genetic disease said yesterday.

The law, passed in June, represents eugenic abuse of private genetic information and violation of human rights and forces doctors to become the agents of the state in forcing women to have abortions, according to Alastair Kent of Britain's Genetic Interest Group.

Article 10 of the "Law on Maternal and Infant Health Care" deprives women of the right to own their own bodies. It prescribes compulsory genetic testing of married couples, followed by sterilisation or termination of pregnancy in families identified as likely to produce a "defective" child, Mr Kent said.

The issue is particularly relevant to the United Nations World Conference on Women (opening on Monday), Mr Kent said, because "women are the ones who are going to be suffering from the enforced termination of their pregnancies, prolonged contraception or sterilisation. We recognise that China has a problem with a burgeoning population," Mr Kent said, "but while a couple might decide to terminate an affected pregnancy, it is inappropriate for the state to decide and an unacceptable burden on physicians to be required to make the decision to terminate on behalf of the state."

The law was "saying that some children are less valuable as human beings than others".