Behind the Silence: Chinese Voices on Abortion

Overview

Behind the Silence is the first in-depth work in any language to explore the diverse perspectives of mainland Chinese regarding induced abortion and fetal life in the context of the world's most ambitious and intrusive family planning program. Bringing to light the range of Chinese views and experiences, Nie Jing-Bao draws on extensive primary sources and intensive fieldwork, including surveys by and interviews with hundreds of rural, urban, and overseas Chinese. Nie's exploration of the multi-layered meanings of...
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Behind the Silence: Chinese Voices on Abortion

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Overview

Behind the Silence is the first in-depth work in any language to explore the diverse perspectives of mainland Chinese regarding induced abortion and fetal life in the context of the world's most ambitious and intrusive family planning program. Bringing to light the range of Chinese views and experiences, Nie Jing-Bao draws on extensive primary sources and intensive fieldwork, including surveys by and interviews with hundreds of rural, urban, and overseas Chinese. Nie's exploration of the multi-layered meanings of public silence, official pronouncements, forgotten controversies from the Imperial era, public and private consensus and disagreement, women's personal stories, and doctors' narratives provides compelling evidence on the remarkably varied, sometimes critical, and often tormented voices of the Chinese people. Revealing a surprising range of beliefs and feelings concerning the morality of abortion and fetal life, the book nevertheless finds widespread acceptance of national population policies. It also examines the personal anguish and complex socio-cultural and ethical issues entwined with coerced abortion essential to enforce birth-control policies. In addition, the author argues, the abortion issue illustrates the importance of taking seriously China's internal plurality if Westerners and Chinese are to develop a fruitful cross-cultural dialogue.
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Editorial Reviews

Canadian Review Of Sociology and Anthropology
[A] remarkable achievement. Nie’s overarching project, the eclipsing of stereotypes held in the West about a monolithic and mono-cultural Chinese experience, can be said to be an unqualified triumph. Not only does the work represent a hitherto unexamined area of Chinese society, it contributes to a theory of ethics that must coexist with this contentious subject matter….Nie’s book is about the morality and ethics of abortion as much as it is about the multifaceted grounds for a medical procedure, and its frequently devastating effects on the lives of Chinese women.
New Zealand Journal Of Asian Studies
[A] unique and comprehensive study of abortion and its moral and ethical contexts in contemporary mainland China....Nie has made a tremendous contribution to scholarship in the area by giving a voice to so many silenced women and bringing to light some of the diverse personal meanings and experiences of aboration in contemporary China...This book with its clear and comprehensive exposition...can be recommended to a wide range of readers from specialists in Chinese ethics, sociology or women's studies, right through to undergraduate students taking general courses on Chinese society and culture.
— Rosemary Roberts, University of Queensland
International Journal Of Public Opinion Research
Using surveys and ethnographic information Nie Jing-Bao shows in this book how pluralistic, multisided, and contested the issue of abortion is in China.
The Lancet
In this impressive book Nie Jing-Bao not only explores the voices of women whose reproductive choices are affected by the existing policies in China, but also elucidates the theoretical, philosophical, and social realities behind them. By speaking and listening to individuals and health professionals, Nie offers a unique and compelling account of the reality of reproductive life in modern China... [H]is non-judgmental, and intellectually sophisticated handling of the subject and those whose voices he documents, makes his book a landmark contribution.
The American Journal Of Bioethics
This is a book full of real people struggling within constraints that touch them as individuals, but that also engage them in conceptions of the common good and of their place in the scheme of things. To grasp that overarching theme is to lift ethics from the narrow and procedural terms that are often dictated by individualistic conceptions of autonomy and rights and to remind us that our lives are articulated against a wider canvas than the one we often encounter.
— Grant Gillett, University of Otago
Medical Law International
[An] excellent and informative account of the impact of reproduction policies in China…. Nie’s book is wonderfully nuanced and thoroughly researched. More than 700 Chinese people took part in the research he conducted, and Nie brings to their voices an understanding and compassion which speaks to his own personal and intellectual understandings of China, its history and its complexity.
— Sheila A. McLean, Glasgow University
Population and Development Review
Affords rare insight into the personal experiences and viewpoints of some Chinese who have endured the world’s harshest and most insistent state-directed birth control program. Of interest not only to students of Chinese society and culture, but also to specialists in ethics and public policy, medicine, and law.
China Review International
An exceptionally thorough and well-documented examination of abortion in the PRC. This is a truly pioneering work in that the PRC government's antagonism to research that has anything to do with the one-child policy has, until now, made such a project impossible. Nie successfully overcame this barrier, however, producing this very important contribution to the academic study of China.
The China Journal
This thoughtful study explores Cinese attitudes both past and present . . . contentious, thought-provoking and carefully nuanced. Nie's strong views on the nature of Chinese society and culture and the way he links his research to debates on whether ethical and moral values should be absolute or relative give his work relevenace far beyond its specifc subject matter.
— Delai Davin, Univeristy of Leeds
Studies In Family Planning
The most valuable information in the book comes from Nie's painstaking survey and in-depth interviews. . . .I recommend this book to Chinese readers for the particular attention it brings to what people in the West think about abortion in moral terms. I would also recommend it to Western readers because Nie has offered interpretation of much of the silence behind abortion in China.
— Yan Che, Shanghai Institute of Planned Parenthood Research
East Asia
Nie's contribution is that he has been able to get some people in China to talk more openly about their attitudes toward abortion, fetal life, and morality...Nie also contributes richness to our understanding of what it means to live in a society where women may be forced to have abortions with the collusion of their work colleagues and friends as well as the coercion of the local state.
— Jean C. Robinson
Bulletin Of The History Of Medicine
Thought-provoking and thoughtful, Behind the Silence injects nuance and complexity into a fraught topic and should be standard reading for anyone seeking to understand abortion in contemporary China.
International Journal Of Feminist Approaches To Bioethics
A very ambitious book that aims to offer an account of Chinese voices on abortion….[Nie's] work contributes substantially to an understanding of abortion in China under the one-child policy in both descriptive and normative ways, giving rich texture to the title phrase 'behind the silence.'…An important and sensitive work.
China Quarterly - Harriet Evans
Nie's important book…examine[s] the diverse and difficult experiences and views of different groups of Chinese people….In addressing the moral experience of abortion in China, it brings to light the multifaceted, complex and difficult dimensions of an issue that continues to be excluded from public debate by the political constraints of the Chinese state.
Rosemarie Tong
Jing-Bao Nie's nuanced account of abortion in China has provided me with a new set of lenses through which to view abortion as it is theorized and practiced in the United States. Sensitive to issues of gender, race, and class; aware of hierarchies of power in the public, professional, and private realms; and attentive to debates about women's rights and responsibilities, he provides the means for previously repressed and suppressed voices to speak loudly about one of their most difficult choices: to say 'yes' or 'no' to new life. Nie has written a book for all seasons that I intend to use in my courses on Ethics and Public Policy, Health Care Ethics and Law, and Feminist Thought.
CHOICE - R. Wang
An important work about abortion in China....Nie's rich background is a perfect combination of medicine and sociology, with roots in Chinese culture, making his contribution to this area of research unique. This well-organized, readable book is useful for multiple disciplines in the social sciences. Highly recommended.
New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies - Rosemary Roberts
[A] unique and comprehensive study of abortion and its moral and ethical contexts in contemporary mainland China....Nie has made a tremendous contribution to scholarship in the area by giving a voice to so many silenced women and bringing to light some of the diverse personal meanings and experiences of aboration in contemporary China...This book with its clear and comprehensive exposition...can be recommended to a wide range of readers from specialists in Chinese ethics, sociology or women's studies, right through to undergraduate students taking general courses on Chinese society and culture.
Arthur Kleinman
from the Foreword:
One of the most important books written on morality and ethics in China. Nie’s achievement is not just to tell us about what people have practiced and how they have reacted to abortion. Even more, this book opens a window on contemporary Chinese society that provides a better sense of how ordinary Chinese negotiate social dangers and endure and transform moral experience.
The American Journal Of Bioethics - Grant Gillett
This is a book full of real people struggling within constraints that touch them as individuals, but that also engage them in conceptions of the common good and of their place in the scheme of things. To grasp that overarching theme is to lift ethics from the narrow and procedural terms that are often dictated by individualistic conceptions of autonomy and rights and to remind us that our lives are articulated against a wider canvas than the one we often encounter.
Medical Law International - Sheila A. McLean
[An] excellent and informative account of the impact of reproduction policies in China…. Nie’s book is wonderfully nuanced and thoroughly researched. More than 700 Chinese people took part in the research he conducted, and Nie brings to their voices an understanding and compassion which speaks to his own personal and intellectual understandings of China, its history and its complexity.
The China Journal - Delai Davin
This thoughtful study explores Cinese attitudes both past and present . . . contentious, thought-provoking and carefully nuanced. Nie's strong views on the nature of Chinese society and culture and the way he links his research to debates on whether ethical and moral values should be absolute or relative give his work relevenace far beyond its specifc subject matter.
Studies in Family Planning - Yan Che
The most valuable information in the book comes from Nie's painstaking survey and in-depth interviews. . . .I recommend this book to Chinese readers for the particular attention it brings to what people in the West think about abortion in moral terms. I would also recommend it to Western readers because Nie has offered interpretation of much of the silence behind abortion in China.
East Asia - Jean C. Robinson
Nie's contribution is that he has been able to get some people in China to talk more openly about their attitudes toward abortion, fetal life, and morality...Nie also contributes richness to our understanding of what it means to live in a society where women may be forced to have abortions with the collusion of their work colleagues and friends as well as the coercion of the local state.
March 2008 Iias Newsletter
A timely work about the historical, cultural, social, and political aspects of induced abortion in China...[Nie's] work raises issues of gender, ethnicity, and religion in a meticulous, nuanced, and accessible manner, making the reader doubt whether people's experiences of induced abortion really conform to the stereotypes about which we so often hear.
March 2008 Developing World Bioethics
A well-written and insightful account of the impact of the family planning policy in China by an author with a keen understanding of both the moral and cultural issues involved.
Spring 2007 China Review International
Nie Jing-Bao's book Behind the Silence is an exceptionally thorough and well-documented examination of abortion in the PRC. This is a truly pioneering work....Nie creates a well-balanced account of both abortion and the one-child policy....Nie has some true gems in his study....He provides a striking range of voices.
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Thought-provoking and thoughtful, Behind the Silence injects nuance and complexity into a fraught topic and should be standard reading for anyone seeking to understand abortion in contemporary China.
The China Journal - Delia Davin
This thoughtful study explores Cinese attitudes both past and present . . . contentious, thought-provoking and carefully nuanced. Nie's strong views on the nature of Chinese society and culture and the way he links his research to debates on whether ethical and moral values should be absolute or relative give his work relevenace far beyond its specifc subject matter.
Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology
[A] remarkable achievement. Nie’s overarching project, the eclipsing of stereotypes held in the West about a monolithic and mono-cultural Chinese experience, can be said to be an unqualified triumph. Not only does the work represent a hitherto unexamined area of Chinese society, it contributes to a theory of ethics that must coexist with this contentious subject matter….Nie’s book is about the morality and ethics of abortion as much as it is about the multifaceted grounds for a medical procedure, and its frequently devastating effects on the lives of Chinese women.
China Quarterly
Nie's important book…examine[s] the diverse and difficult experiences and views of different groups of Chinese people….In addressing the moral experience of abortion in China, it brings to light the multifaceted, complex and difficult dimensions of an issue that continues to be excluded from public debate by the political constraints of the Chinese state.
— Harriet Evans
Choice
An important work about abortion in China....Nie's rich background is a perfect combination of medicine and sociology, with roots in Chinese culture, making his contribution to this area of research unique. This well-organized, readable book is useful for multiple disciplines in the social sciences. Highly recommended.
— R. Wang, Central Michigan University
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742523708
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/28/2005
  • Series: Asian Voices Series
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 7.60 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

Nie Jing-Bao is senior lecturer at the Bioethics Centre, University of Otago, New Zealand, and adjunct/visiting professor at several Chinese universities. He has published nearly sixty journal articles and book chapters, and is the author of Medical Ethics in China (2006). Another area of his research focuses on Japanese wartime medical atrocities in China.
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Table of Contents

Foreword
1 Listening to the silence : the absence of public debate and its meaning 13
2 "Instructions" from above : official positions 39
3 The forgotten controversies : heritage of imperial times 67
4 Tidings from the populace : consensus and contention in the survey results 95
5 Bitterness beyond words : women's narratives 135
6 Fulfilling discordant duties : doctors' narratives 163
7 An inquiry into coerced abortion : sociocultural and ethical issues 189
8 The challenge of cross-cultural dialogue : taking seriously China's internal plurality 223
App The pilot study, the survey, and the interviews 255
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