China has already enacted strict measures aimed at preventing sex-selective abortions, and health authorities also warned in 2018 that the use of abortion to end unwanted pregnancies was harmful to women’s bodies and risks causing infertility.
The State Council said the new guidelines would also aim to improve women’s overall access to pre-pregnancy health care services.
National Health Commission data showed that between 2014 and 2018, there had been an average of 9.7 million abortions per year, rising about 51% from the 2009-2013 average despite a relaxation of family planning policies in 2015. The data didn’t specify how many abortions were for medical reasons.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Monday’s new measures were designed at addressing China’s declining birth rate, which think tanks and policy researchers have identified as one of its major social policy challenges in the coming decades.
Although China remains the world’s most populous nation, the latest census showed population growth from 2011 to 2020 was the slowest since the 1950s, and was expected to slow even more within a few years.
After years of trying to limit population growth, Beijing is now promising new policies aimed at encouraging families to have more children.