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04 / 09 / 2009 - Adverts spark Chinese abortion debate
A HOSPITAL promotion in the western city of Chongqing offering a 50 per cent discount off the cost of abortions to teenagers who show student ID, has sparked a debate about whether Chinese attitudes to abortion are too casual.
Adverts for “Students Care Month” at Chongqing Huaxi Women’s Hospital show a schoolgirl wearing a school uniform, saluting and saying: “I am a student, I have special rights.” Below the speech bubble runs the advert, which says: “Students are our future, but when something happens to them, who will help and protect them?” beside an explanation that their procedure is a “pain-free, quick operation that will not stretch your womb, nor do any damage.Your studies will not be affected afterward.”
Education is such a high priority that people would be more worried about the impact of an abortion on someone’s studies than on their health.
Some 13 million abortions are carried out in China each year, according to data from the National Population and Family Planning Commission’s technology research centre, many of them linked to the One Child Policy of population control, which encourages abortion and often enforces it if people break the rules on having just one child.
Compare this to the US, which has a population roughly a quarter that of China and reported 820,151 abortions in 2005.
The high Chinese figure comes in part because there is little education about contraception among teenagers or disease for the rising numbers of young people who are having sex. And young people are worried about shaming their families, which means they are quick to terminate the pregnancy.
The average cost of an abortion is 600 yuan (€60) and hospitals and clinics have been competing for a bigger share of the market in terminating pregnancies. There are about 20 million births in the country each year. The real number of abortions is probably even higher, since the 13 million only takes into account procedures in hospitals, and many more terminations are known to be carried out in unregistered rural clinics. Students have little money, and often take the route of using back-street clinics to save money, with all the attendant risks.
“Pregnancy is not easy for students who often don’t have a job. It stresses them out and humiliates them. Abortions should be affordable for all women who need one,” Hu Jing, a 17-year-old local high school student, told the China Daily newspaper.
Students at the university told the newspaper that the hospital’s controversial sales campaign to acquire a larger share in the market for abortions, which generates billions of yuan per year, was far from unique, and many other provinces across China run the same kind of adverts.
A women’s hospital in Guangdong province has a similar campaign, as well as several hospitals in Hubei province.
“There are abortion advertisements . . . in almost every college,” Tang Yunyun, a senior student from a vocational training college in Chongqing, told the newspaper.
The competition has become so intense that the Chongqing government two years ago banned abortion advertisements in newspapers, and youth TV and TVs on buses are no longer allowed carry ads offering abortion services.
“The advertisement sends a twisted message that painless abortion does little damage and is affordable,” wrote one Beijing online user, who went on to say the advert encouraged unprotected sex.
Source: CLIFFORD COONAN - Irish Times