Young, unmarried women do more abortions: Report

09:56, January 10, 2011      

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Young and unmarried Chinese women are reportedly implementing rising abortions in the cities, as they embrace a more liberal attitude towards premarital sex, resulting in huge unplanned pregnancies.

China's traditional social stigma also deters single women from having a child on their own, before marriage.

A story filed by The Associated Press reporter Alexa Olesen on Saturday tells the growing phenomenon of unwanted pregnancies and abortions in China.

While comprehensive data are hard to come by, official figures show abortions are increasing, and Chinese media and experts say many, if not most, of the abortion-seekers are young, single women.

That's a change from the past, when abortion was used mainly to enforce the government's one child per couple limit for the urban couples. Today, students are clearly a client base: The Beijing Modern Women's Hospital offers a government subsidized "Safe & Easy A+" discount abortion package at 880 yuan (US$126).

According to a government tally, 9.2 million abortions were performed in 2008, up from 7.6 million in 2007. But the count only includes hospitals, and Chinese media report the total number could be well beyond 10 million.

"The moral outrage over having a child before marriage in our society is much stronger than the shame associated with abortion," the AP report quoted Zhou Anqin, the manager at an abortion clinic in Xi'an, northwestern Shaanxi Province, as saying. The clinic performs up to 60 abortions each month, mostly on students aged 24 or younger.

The two-story facility, which opened in 2007, is one of five operated in China by Marie Stopes International, a London-based not-for-profit group that runs hundreds of clinics globally promoting safe abortions, HIV testing and other services. The fetuses that aren't buried are discarded as medical waste, as they are in the United States and other countries.

In a ground floor examination room, a nurse rubs the sonogram wand over 20-year-old Nancy Yin's belly as Yin stares at the wall, looking away from the image on the machine: a nearly three-month-old fetus with arms, legs, and a quick fluttering heartbeat.

Ms Yin asks to be identified as "Nancy," an English name she likes, instead of her official Chinese name, because her family is unaware of the pregnancy, said the AP report.

A student in Xi'an, she says she started having sex with her boyfriend in March. The couple never used contraceptives, Yin says, because she "didn't feel comfortable with it." Her parents never talked to her about birth control, nor was it discussed in school.

As a nurse checks her blood for signs of infection, Yin huddles inside her winter coat, letting her hair fall forward to cover most of her face. She seems embarrassed to be in the clinic but firm in her decision.

"I considered having the baby," she says. "But it's not possible. I am in school and I've got to graduate."

Young people like Ms Yin are falling through the cracks. A UN-funded survey of 22,288 Chinese aged 15-24 by the Peking University Population Research Institute in 2009 found that two-thirds were accepting of premarital sex but that most "had very limited levels of sexual reproductive health knowledge."

The survey found 22 percent had had sex before; of those, more than 50 percent used no contraception during their first sexual encounter. A 2009 survey of American high schoolers by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found 46 percent of students had had sex and 85 percent used contraceptives during their most recent sexual activity.

Later, Yin leaves with a bag of pills and an abortion appointment three days later. Zhou, the manager, explains that the pills will kill the fetus and soften Yin's cervix.

From fewer than 5 million abortions a year prior to 1979, the numbers jumped to 8.7 million in 1981, a year after the one-child family planning policy was launched. It peaked in 1983 at 14.4 million before coming down as China's government relaxed the policy to allow rural couples a second child if their first was a girl.

People's Daily Online


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