When Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng and his family arrived in Greenwich Village from Beijing, Chai Ling was among the crowd cheering their arrival. In many ways, Chen was following in Chai's footsteps.
A political generation ago, Chai was deemed an enemy of the state for her participation in the student demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, where a papier-mache Statue of Liberty was the students' chosen symbol. Chai escaped to the West in search of freedom, and her journey has been every bit as epic as the story of Chen and his family.
Chai has lived the nightmares that Chen has sacrificed so much, as a writer and scholar, to document for the world to see. Last September, Chai testified before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the three coerced abortions she endured years ago under China's draconian one-child policy. Chai told the members of Congress of the 400,000,000 people killed under the law -- among them 40,000,000 girls killed in the womb solely because of their sex.
As the Chen drama unfolded in the past few weeks, Chai testified twice more before the House, recounting the fate of Deng Lourong, of Anhui province, the second daughter of parents who bore her in defiance of the one-child policy. Chinese officials demolished the family home and seized Deng's parents' belongings for their "crime." When Deng's mother bore another daughter two years after Deng's birth, the mother of three disappeared, oddly, just two days later.
From that point on, Deng's life was thrown into chaos, as she was sent to live with her grandmother (her father had fled from pursuing state family planning officials), subjected to a rape at age 12 that went virtually unpunished by authorities, and was ultimately sold as a child bride to a much older man. This entire tragedy and many like it are made possible by the one-child policy.
Then there is the story of Ma Jihong. As Chai recounted, "Last October, officials dragged Ma into a van when she was heavily pregnant with her third child. She died during the forced abortion procedure, and her family did not know for hours afterward. Her husband and two surviving daughters have no real recourse to take."
Chen's contribution to fighting these enormities was unprecedented. He detailed the impact of the one-child policy by annotating the cases of 130,000 women who had undergone forced abortions and sterilizations and filing a class-action lawsuit on their behalf. Chen's lawsuit and activism riled the communist government and led to his imprisonment and home detention. It must have especially galled them that his lawsuit could appeal not only to the most basic standards of human rights but also to Chinese law, which, though honored in massive breach, outlaws sex-selection abortion.
Now that Chen is in the United States, one of the ironies that grows sharper is the fact that he has entered a nation where sex-selection abortion is legally permitted in all but a few states. Chai has gone on to found the group All Girls Allowed to inform Americans about this worldwide phenomenon and its vast social implications.
The American people are receptive. A poll completed last week for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the education and research arm of Susan B. Anthony List, found that 77 percent of U.S. adults, and fully 80 percent of women, would support a law to make sex-selection abortion illegal in the United States.
Is sex-selection abortion happening in the United States? A 2008 study by Douglas Almond and Lena Edlund at Columbia University and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says yes, especially among ethnic subgroups with a history of strong son-preference.
Now that Chen and his family are safely on our shores, we could choose no better way to honor him than to adopt measures to end coercive and sex-selection abortions -- everywhere. Lady Liberty's light will shine ever more brightly when we do.
Marjorie Dannenfelser is president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a nationwide network of more than 365,000 pro-life Americans dedicated to advancing, mobilizing and representing pro-life women in the political process.