More than half of the 13 million abortions that take place in China every year are performed on women under 25, according to a new report by China’s National Population and Family Planning Commission. More abortions take place in China than anywhere else in the world.
Whilst China’s one-child policy undoubtedly has an effect on the abortion rate, and leads to utterly reprehensible forced abortions and a worrying gender disparity, it is nevertheless refreshing that abortion is readily available to those Chinese women who need it when women’s control over their own bodies in under constant attack in certain Western countries.
What is disappointing is the regressive reaction by Chinese commentators to this news. A rise in abortion rates shouldn’t, as the Shanghai Daily puts it, “[spark] concerns over students becoming more open to premarital sex”. Instead, the conversation should be about educating young Chinese about less drastic forms of birth control. How many of the 6.5 million young women who have an abortion every year could have avoided doing so if they had easy access to condoms and hormonal birth control?
We reported earlier this month the welcome news that Chongqing University has begun providing students free condoms on campus. However, some universities still seek to control the ability of their students to have sex at all, barring men from female dormitories and imposing curfews on student residents (sometimes, rather despicably, on only female students). This regressive attitude to sex is reflected by those commentators who harp on about “a drop in respect for marriage and social responsibility” as the main concerns raised by abortion statistics, rather than a lack of access to other forms of birth control.
A survey of Guangdong students in 2010 showed that only 34% used condoms during sex. These abortion statistics should be a wake-up call for Chinese authorities about the woeful state of sex-ed in this country.
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