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Apple Inc. (AAPL) Enabling Forced Abortions in China?

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has been dealing with China regulators for several years, and those battles have been well-documented – from poor working conditions for workers in Apple’s China supplier factories to customer service issues regarding repairing or replacing devices. Now, CEO Tim Cook has a letter on his desk addressing so,e human-rights concerns involving female employees in China.

Should this Concern Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Google Inc (GOOG)?

The letter, written by human-rights watchdogs including Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, was sent to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Tim Cook this week, alleging that coercive pregnancy-testing policies in Apple facilities is actually enabling forced abortions in China, where the country has had a one-child-per-family policy for many years.  In explaining the letter, co-author Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, said, “We are challenging Apple to assure customers that products made in China are not made in facilities that practice coercive family planning or stifle free speech.”

According to internal documents that audit Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) facilities, the most recent audit in 2012 revealed that 24 Apple facilities conducted coercive pregnancy tests of its female employees, and nearly 60 did not have policies that prevented discrimination due to pregnancy, according to Littlejohn, who is an attorney. He says Apple has been has been auditing the facilities since 2006, but the company had required the practices to stop. “Why, then, is it still the case that pregnancy testing is reported as rampant? Either Apple’s requirement that these practices must stop is new, or its policies to implement it are ineffectual,” Littlejohn said.

“Apple in China should take a very active role,” Chen said. “There’s a huge social responsibility for these international corporations like Apple.”

There may be a few investors in Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) who may pay attention to this latest human-rights issue and how Tim Cook and the company responds to the letter. Can this matter come back to haunt Apple or investors like hedge-fund manager Julian Robertson of Tiger Management?

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