By Hilary White

July 30, 2009 ( – At least 13 million Chinese children lose their lives to abortion every year, compared with 20 million live births, an English language Chinese news service reports. Chinese officials, however, admitted that this number takes into account only surgical abortions committed in hospitals, not those in unregistered rural facilities. In addition, 10 million abortifacients are sold every year. China became the first country in the world to approve the deadly RU 486 abortion pill in 1988 to assist with its One Child “family planning” programs.

The number of Chinese children killed by abortion per year is roughly the equivalent to the entire population of Guatemala, and to more than twice the population of Denmark, Slovakia and Finland. 13 million deaths a year would, within one year, entirely depopulate Greece, Portugal, Belgium, Hungary or Sweden.

Despite the government's ongoing coercive one child policy, which continues to employ fines, heavy pressure and intimidation to convince people to abort, local experts have blamed lack of knowledge among young people of sex and contraceptives for the figures. Li Ying, a professor at Peking University cited a survey that showed fewer than 30 percent of young people who called a hospital hotline knew “how to avoid” pregnancy.

“Sex education needs to be strengthened, with universities and our society giving more guidance,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government has affirmed that its one child policy will continue. The official state news agency reported that despite media-generated rumors of a relaxation to the rules, the policy will “be strictly enforced as a means of controlling births for decades to come as overpopulation is still a major concern.”

China's “family planning” policies have resulted in a number of threats to the country's demographic stability. The cultural preference for boys and the availability of sex-selective ultrasounds have resulted in the world's most severe gender imbalance, with 32 million more males than females in China under the age of 18, according to a study in the British Medical Journal. The report said, “Sex selective abortion accounts for almost all the excess males.”

Despite claims by the United Nations Population Fund that the Chinese program no longer employs coerced abortion, an investigation by Population Research Institute (PRI) found earlier this year that the government continues to employ “crippling fines,” intimidation, pressure for sterilization and even the seizure of “illegal children” to force local people to comply. PRI's Colin Mason, who headed up the investigation, told that “any and all official action concerning reproductive health and/or population control was entirely coercive and administrative in nature.”

Recently, the financial centre of Shanghai, the country's largest city with a population of just under 19 million, is reportedly independently relaxing the one child rule. Officials announced last week that couples should consider having a second child to offset the aging of the overall population.

“We advocate eligible couples to have two kids, because it can help to reduce the proportion of the aging people and alleviate a workforce shortage in the future,” Xie Linli, director of the Shanghai Population and Family Planning Commission, told the Times.

Shanghai's demographics reflect the problems seen in the rest of the country, with its population divided between 51.4 percent males and 48.6 per cent females. Only 12.2 percent of the population is under 14 and 21.6 percent, or more than three million, is over 60. 

Read related coverage:

On-the-Ground China Investigation Re-Confirms UNFPA Complicit in Coercive One-Child Policy

Shanghai Starts Backpedaling One-Child Policy in Face of Demographic Implosion