With China's rising affluence, increasing numbers of infertile couples have been seeking surrogate mothers to bear them babies.
In recent years, officials have largely turned a blind eye to this underground womb-for-rent industry that defies the country's strict childbirth laws. Now, there are signs the authorities are starting to crack down by forcing some surrogate mothers to abort their fetuses.
In the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, three young surrogate first-time mothers were discovered by authorities hiding in a communal flat.
Soon afterwards, district family planning and security officers broke into the flat, bundled them into a van and drove them to a district hospital where they were manhandled into a maternity ward, the mothers recounted to Reuters.
"I was crying 'I don't want to do this'," said a young woman called Xiao Hong, who was pregnant with four-month-old twins.
"But they still dragged me in and injected my belly with a needle," the 20-year-old told Reuters of her ordeal which happened in late February.
The woman, who declined to give her full name for fear of reprisals, said the men had forced her thumbprint onto a consent form before carrying out the abortion.
Another of the surrogates, who said she'd come from a village in Sichuan province, recounted how officers made her take pills then surgically removed her three-month-old fetus while she was unconscious. "I was terrified," the 23-year-old said.
A spokesman for the Guangdong Provincial Family Planning Commission Zhong Qingcai declined to be formally interviewed by Reuters, but said authorities were investigating.
The official Guangzhou Daily newspaper quoted district family planning officials as saying the women were all unmarried and acting as "illegal" surrogates. It added the three had "agreed" to undergo "remedial measures" in accordance with the law.
But the head of the surrogacy agency caring for the mothers, disputes this version of events.
"It's an absolute crime," said Lu Jinfeng, the founder of the "China Surrogate Mother" website (www.aa69.com) which has run for over five years without encountering any problems like this.
"By forcefully dragging people away like this to undergo an abortion is a savage illegal act that violates human rights."