China has apologised to a woman who was forced to undergo an abortion seven months into her pregnancy and suspended three officials responsible for the act, state media reported.
Xinhua News Agency said on Friday that two top local family planning officials and the head of the township government would be relieved of their duties.
There was a public uproar after graphic photos of the mother and her dead baby were posted online.
The government of Ankang city, where Feng lives in northwest China’s Shaanxi province, said a deputy mayor visited Feng and her husband in the hospital, apologised to them and said officials would be suspended amid an investigation.
“Today, I am here on behalf of the municipal government to see you and express our sincere apology to you. I hope to get your understanding,” Deputy Mayor Du Shouping said, according to a statement on the city government’s website.
Xinhua said Feng was not legally entitled to a second child under China’s one-child limit, but added that late-term abortions are prohibited.
Activists have criticised authorities 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.
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.
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.