China’s complex abortion problem

20 APR 2022

Recent official pronouncements in China have sparked speculation that tighter restrictions on abortion may be in the offing. Six months ago, the Chinese State Council issued guidelines to lower the number of abortions performed for non-medical reasons. And in February, China's family-planning association announced that the authorities would launch a special abortion intervention campaign to reduce unwanted pregnancies and abortions among teenagers.

But these official interventions, under the guise of "enhancing women's reproductive health", are in fact a response to China's growing fertility crisis. The one-child policy, which was implemented nationwide in 1980, forced down China's fertility rate for two generations, and the introduction of the two-child policy in 2016 has failed to boost it. Even according to the inflated official figures, China's fertility rate was only 1.3 children per woman in 2020 and 1.1-1.2 children per woman last year, well below the rates of 1.8, 1.7, and 1.5 predicted by the Chinese authorities, the United Nations, and the US Census Bureau, respectively.