China Will Restrict Abortions To Promote Gender Equality

Experts remain sceptical.


The Chinese government announced on Monday that it will seek to reduce abortions for “non-medical reasons”, a move which is considered as being in line with China’s attempt to accelerate birthrates.

The guidelines published by the government did not provide details on what constitutes a non-medical abortion.

State-run media has boasted that the decision would improve gender equality “to a higher level in the new era.”

Chinese social media saw a lot of comments with women feeling dissatisfied with what they see as government efforts to control their bodies, describing the ban on abortions as a desperate attempt to boost the country’s declining birth rates. 

One comment on Weibo said “the female body has become a tool [...] when (the state) wants you to bear a child, you must do it at all cost. When (the state) doesn’t want it, you’re not allowed to give birth even at the risk of death.”

China researcher for Human Rights Watch Yaqiu Wang said, “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.”

She continued by saying that “around the world a lot of women die from not having safe access to abortions.” Wang considers the move could endanger the lives of women who were denied abortions, although the government has yet to define what non-medical reasons mean.

For decades, China enforced a one-child policy, to control its growing population. Now it has reversed its approach as it attempts to counteract declining birthrates, allowing couples to have up to three children from May. 

Abortions have been widely practiced in China for decades. Under the one-child policy, which was introduced in 1979, millions of women were forced to terminate “illegal” pregnancies. The preference for sons also led to a rise in sex-selective abortions, often choosing to abort daughters. This has contributed to an uneven gender ratio. Currently, there are almost 35 million more men than women in the country of 1.4 billion. 

Figures released this year show that births in China fell in 2020 by almost two million, from 11.8 million to 10 million.


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