China jails anti-abortion activist

An anti-abortion activist investigating complaints by villagers who claimed they were forced to undergo abortions and sterilisations under China's controversial birth-control rules has been jailed on what his supporters called phony charges.

The Washington Post reports that 35-year-old Chen Guangcheng was sentenced to four years and three months prison.

Chen was convicted of damaging property and "organising a mob to disturb traffic" after a trial in the eastern province of Shandong, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Chen's supporters say local officials fabricated the charges against him in retaliation for his anti-abortion activism.

"I am outraged by the sentence," said Li Fangping, a member of Chen's team of volunteer defense lawyers. "The whole justice system has acted totally illegally in Chen Guangcheng's case."

Chen was put on trial last week without his lawyers present after police detained three members of the defence team on theft charges and refused to let them see evidence against him.

"I did not expect such a harsh sentence," Chen's wife Yuan Weijing told the Post by phone from their home, where she was under house arrest.

"It has to be because he had exposed the scandals in the family planning practices, because the local authorities are afraid that he will continue his investigations and make his findings public. So they put him in jail to seal his lips," she said.

Chen was accused of getting several members of his family to help damage police cars and beat police officers.

Meanwhile, in Australia, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has called on state governments to clarify abortion laws following the conviction of Dr Suman Sood on Wednesday of unlawfully giving abortion drugs to a young woman in 2002.

According to The Age, Victorian Premier Steve Bracks, a Catholic, said abortion laws in Victoria were clear and did not need to be changed.

However, he also flagged the possibility of changes following the Victorian state election later this year.

But Mr Bracks said that any change to the laws would require that MPs cast their ballot in a conscience vote.

In NSW, premier Morris Iemma, also a Catholic, ruled out changing NSW's abortion laws.

Mr Iemma said current laws permitted safe and legal abortions to occur.

"My personal view and my public policy view is that our laws at the present time provide for safe and legal abortions to take place and for the appropriate protections to be there," he told reporters yesterday.

Mr Iemma said he did not agree with medical groups that there was not enough clarity in the laws.

Chinese Activist Gets 4 Years in Prison
Blind Chinese Anti-Forced Abortion Activist Sentenced to Over Four Years in Prison (Lifesite News, 25/8/06)
An Inconvenient Dissident: Forced Sterilizations and the New York Times (The Fact Is, 7/8/06)
Abortion law won't change: Bracks (The Age, 25/8/06)
Iemma rules out abortion law change

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)

Guilty, but abortion doctor still free to practise (Sydney Morning Herald, 25/8/06)

Out for Justice (Daily Standard, 24/8/06)

25 Aug 2006