China Releases Guidelines to Limit Abortions for 'Non-Medical Purposes'

The plan published by the State Council did not provide any clarity on what included a non-medical abortion.

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In new guidelines issued by central government on Monday, 27 September, China announced that it will reduce the number of abortions performed for "non-medical purposes." The guidelines are a part of a comprehensive plan for the development of women and children in the coming decade.

The state council said that the guidelines aimed at improving women's reproductive health and the overall access to pre-pregnancy healthcare services.

It said the measures would restrict unwanted pregnancies and encourage men to "share responsibility" in preventing them, reported The Guardian.

The plan published by the State Council did not provide any clarity on what included a non-medical abortion or how the Chinese government would encourage the reduction.

China has a history of fostering coercive reproductive health policies. Implemented in 1980, under its one-child policy, Chinese officials often forced women to undergo abortions and sterilisations, reported The New York Times.

The one-child policy was revoked in 2015. Over the past decade, the Chinese government has been vary of the economic consequences emanating from an ageing population and low birth rate. Changing its approach, this year it allowed couples to have three children. The recent guidelines are believed to be a part of China's attempt at increasing birthrates.

Yaqiu Wang, a Chinese researcher for Human Rights Watch told The Guardian:

"This government in the past 40 years has tried to restrict women's reproductive rights, making women forcefully abort their children and now restricting abortions. I don't know what non-medical means, but anyone who knows Chinese government knows this isn't good."

Wang, in her statement, further added that the fundamentals of the policy rest on restricting women's reproductive means. With an ageing population and smaller labour force, the need for "more babies" is increased.

Women are a tool for economic goals, she told The Guardian.

The data from the National Health Commission showed that there had been an average of 9.7 million abortions per year between 2014 and 2018. A 51 percent rise from the 2009-2013 average, despite the 2015 relaxations.

The latest census indicated that population growth in China from 2011 to 2020 has been the slowest since 1950s. The population is expected to start declining in the coming years, said a Reuters report.

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