336 million abortions in China since 1971, says Chinese govt

Xavier Symons
21 Mar 2013
Reproduced with Permission

There have been over 336 million abortions in China since the since 1971, according to data released by the Chinese Health Department. The number of abortions has remained steady, according to the department, and over 7 million women per year still seek abortions.

In 1971 the Chinese government adopted a policy of limiting population growth and in 1979 the one child policy was brought in. The number of abortions that have subsequently taken place are equivalent to more than one-fourth of the current population.

Many demographers have been warning the Chinese government that the population is ageing, but the Communist party remains adamant. The deputy head of the government's family planning unit, Yang Yuxue, recently responded to criticism: "The idea of easing the ageing problem by increasing the fertility rate is like drinking poison to quench thirst," he said.

The government also reported performing 196 million sterilisations, and inserting 403 million intrauterine devices. The latter would be a normal birth control procedure in the West, but one that local officials often force on women in China.

Many Westerners still support the one-child policy, at least as a regrettable necessity. But some Chinese demographers are scathing in their criticism. In a leading international journal, the Population and Development Review, Wang Feng, a sociologist and demography expert at the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy in Beijing, Cai Yong of the University of North Carolina Population Center and Gu Baochang of Renmin University, wrote an article, "How Will History Judge China's One-Child Policy?" Their answer suggests that 336 million abortions were cruel and perhaps unnecessary:

"The one-child policy will be added to the other deadly errors in recent Chinese history, including the famine in 1959-61 caused largely by the industrialization and collectivization campaigns of the late 1950s, and the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s and early 1970s. While those grave mistakes both cost tens of millions of lives, the harms done were relatively short-lived and were corrected quickly afterward. The one-child policy, in contrast, will surpass them in impact by its role in creating a society with a seriously undermined family and kin structure, and a whole generation of future elderly and their children whose well-being will be seriously jeopardized."