China’s family planning agency says it will “intervene” when unmarried women and adolescent girls seek abortions and will promote traditional values to encourage people to have more children, as it attempts to reverse declining birth rates.
In a plan outlining key initiatives for the year, the Chinese Family Planning Association said the intervention to reduce the number of abortions was aimed at “improving reproductive health”. He said a working group would be set up for education and communication projects in this area, but no further details were given.
The plan, released in late January, also calls for a pilot public health program to encourage Chinese people to have more than one child.
It comes after Beijing relaxed rules in May last year, allowing couples to have up to three children in a major policy change.
China grapples with the challenges of an aging population, and its declining birth rate prompted Beijing to end its decades-old one-child policy in 2016. Births have continued to fall since then. , reaching an all-time high of 12 million in 2020.
Many young Chinese are deterred from having more children by the costs and pressure of raising them, as well as worries about the lack of childcare support and access to medical care during the pandemic. of Covid-19.
According to its plan, the association aims to tackle the problem by working to foster a “positive” family culture of marriage and multiple children. It aims to do so with education programs, providing better prenatal and postnatal care, encouraging both parents to share childcare responsibilities, and eradicating the traditional practice of brides paying high prices.
Education programs will also emphasize traditional family values and community care for vulnerable seniors.
It’s unclear how the agency plans to “intervene” in abortions, but a Shenzhen-based gynecologist, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, said the hospital where she worked received no new political directives to stop abortions. for single women.
Chen Yaya, a feminist scholar and researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said the plan appeared to be aimed at improving women’s long-term reproductive health and reducing unwanted pregnancies and abortions.
But she said care had to be taken when implementing the measures. “Otherwise…they might end up stigmatizing young women who need to have abortions — and that might put them in a more vulnerable position than necessary,” Chen said.
“More resources are needed to strengthen general sex education and teaching, especially for men to respect and understand women,” she added.
Chen also called on the association to devote more resources to supporting family diversity, including supporting single unmarried women with children.
Wang Yaqiu, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, said while it was unclear how the plan would be implemented, there was potential for abuse – noting that forced abortions were carried out across China for decades under the one-child policy.
“What is clear from the document is that the Chinese government is encouraging births and trying to reduce abortions,” Wang said. “Given its history of restricting women’s reproductive rights and bodily autonomy through abusive means… [these measures are] certainly a cause for concern.
READ ALSO: Chinese Woman Dragged In Viral Bride Price Video Asks The Internet To Calm Down
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.