Only medically-necessary procedures should be undertaken, State Council says.
China said Monday that it is restricting abortions to medically-necessary ones.
The directive was a brief sentence in a much larger plan published by the State Council, China’s cabinet, to improve women’s health.
Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, conceded that Monday’s directive is a good sign, but cautioned that “it is not done out of compassion for the unborn.”
Many observers saw the State Council’s move as part of an attempt to boost lagging population growth to head off an expected “demographic winter.” Mosher was no exception, saying the plan is to “try and avert the looming demographic disaster that faces China, brought on by the decades-long one-child policy.”
This year, Beijing said it would allow couples to have three children, up from the one-child restriction implemented in 1980 and the two-child policy of 2015.
“Although China remains the world’s most populous nation, the latest census showed population growth from 2011 to 2020 was the slowest since the 1950s,” the Guardian reported. “The population is expected to start to decline within a few years.”
National Health Commission data showed that between 2014 and 2018, there had been an average of 9.7 million abortions per year, Reuters noted. That’s up about 51% from the 2009-2013 average. The commission didn’t specify how many abortions were for medical reasons.
Monday’s State Council plan did not specify how the government would encourage the reduction of abortion or whether it would involve restrictions on access to abortions; the plan also promised to increase women’s access to birth control,” wrote New York Times China correspondent Vivian Wang. “A plan for the previous decade, released in 2011, contained similar language.”
The Times acknowledged that under China’s one-child policy, “officials at times forced women to undergo abortions and sterilizations.”
Monday’s State Council guidelines, a 50,000-character Chinese document, said that “action would also be taken to avoid unwanted pregnancies and to encourage men to ‘share responsibility’ in preventing them,” the Guardian reported. “Authorities aim to improve sex education and strengthen post-abortion and post-childbirth family planning services, the ruling body added.”
Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers and a long-time activist speaking out about China’s history of forced abortions, said in an email to Aleteia, “Under the new Three-Child Policy, the new rule is that every couple is allowed to have three children. Thus, unmarried women and fourth children may still be subject to forced abortion. Will the [Chinese Communist Party’s] language that they want to reduce the prevalence of ‘medically unnecessary’ abortions be used to stop the family planning police from forcing women abort babies that they want, even if these babies fall outside the strictures of the new 3-child policy?”