China has said it is investigating the case of a woman who was allegedly forced to abort seven months into her
pregnancy, after images posted online of the baby's corpse caused an uproar.
Activists have criticised authorities in north China's Shaanxi province for allegedly forcing Feng Jianmei to abort her pregnancy because she failed to pay a hefty fine for exceeding China's "one-child" population control policy.
The government of Zhenping county, where the abortion took place, has since promised a "transparent probe" under a special committee, while national family planning officials said any perpetrators would be punished.
An official at the National Population and Family Planning Commission who declined to be named said the commission viewed the matter as "serious and important" and that the investigation was being handled at the "top level".
Chai Ling, the founder of All Girls Allowed, an advocacy group focused on protecting women's rights in China, had been in contact with the mother of the aborted child.
"[Feng] told me she never consented to the forced abortion," Chai told Al Jazeera from Boston on Thursday.
"She was dragged by five strong men, they held her down, put a pillow case over her head and put her finger with ink and pressed on the form.
"Then they injected the needles with poison into her tummy, into the baby's head. And the baby, who was jumping around [and] kicking around before in her tummy, all of a sudden stopped moving. And two days later in extreme pain she passed out this dead baby."
Chai said the mother was in a "very bad mental state".
"We need to stop this kind of terrible campaign against women and children in China and immediately," she said. "We were told this is not just a single case, it's the beginning of a campaign by local authorities in an effort to try and improve their one-child policy record."
Chinese web users have reacted in anger to the abortion, with one comparing it to acts perpetrated by "Japanese devils and Nazis", after photos online showed Feng lying on a hospital bed next to the blood-smeared body of her baby.
A relative told the AFP news agency on Wednesday that Feng and her husband had opposed the termination.
The Zhenping government said in a statement on its website that it had set up a special committee headed by senior local officials to investigate the matter, adding it hoped the probe "will reveal the truth as soon as possible".
An earlier statement on the website, which stated that Feng had consented to the procedure, could no longer be found on Thursday.
China has implemented its family planning policy since the late 1970s in an effort to control a population that has grown to 1.3 billion people, the world's largest.
Under the policy, urban families are generally allowed to have one child, while rural families can give birth to two children if the first is a girl.
They have to pay a fine if they contravene the rules.
Rights groups says that as a result of the policy, thousands of women have been forced by authorities to terminate their pregnancies.
Blind activist Chen Guangcheng, who recently left China for the United States after fleeing house arrest, was once jailed after angering local officials for bringing to light hundreds of forced abortions.
Official statistics show that since the start of the policy , the number of abortions peaked in 1983, with a total of 14.37 million terminations that year.