China / Society

Experts call for better sex ed, post-abortion counseling

By Yang Wanli ( Updated: 2016-05-19 12:37

Reproductive health experts are calling for a comprehensive system of sex education and post-abortion counseling in China to help prevent unintended pregnancies.

Abortion rates dropped across the world from an average 4 percent between 1990 and 1994 to an average of 3.5 percent between 2010 and 2014, according to a report released on Wednesday.

The report, based on data from government agencies, international sources and studies, was jointly released by the World Health Organization and Guttmacher Institute — a nonprofit organization based in the United States that aims to advance reproductive health.

"The abortion rate in developed countries declined more significantly than developing countries, and we believe that an unmet need for modern contraceptives is the main reason," said Gilda Sedgh from the institute, who lead the research.

In China, statistics from the National Health and Family Planning Commission show that the abortion rate decreased from 2.9 percent in 1994 to about 1.8 percent in 2001. But it remained stable for the next decade, without witnessing another eye-catching drop.

"Government-supported contraceptives in China have been well promoted among married people. But unmarried people need more attention," said Liu Liqing, founding country director of Marie Stopes, one of the world largest reproductive health charities.

According to the commission, 62 percent of abortions that are performed annually are on women aged between 20 and 29, most of whom are single. Nearly 20 percent have had more than one abortion.

Repeated abortions increase the risk of premature births and have been linked to psychological disorders among women who have them, according to Zhang lihua, a physician from Beijing Maternal and Child Health Care Hospital.

"In our hospital, nearly half of those having abortions are unmarried women. Many of them didn't take oral contraceptives due to a misunderstanding about their side-effects, but chose other unsafe methods instead, such as avoiding the days in their menstrual cycle when they were most likely to get pregnant," she said.

Young people have limited access to contraceptives, according to Guo Wei, deputy director of Social Work and Social Policy Department at Nanjing University. "And sex education at present, which mainly focuses on physical knowledge, does not meet the practical need," he said.

A survey published by the China World Contraception Day Organization in 2013 showed that nearly 70 percent of Chinese women were confused about the difference between oral contraceptives and the morning-after pill.

Apart from calling for government support to promote comprehensive sex education, Liu from Marie Stopes said post-abortion services should also be provided nationwide.

She said many developed countries, such as the UK, have mandatory post-abortion counseling to provide both psychological support and information on contraceptive choice for the future.

"In many hospitals, such a service is still unavailable or has not been required by the health authorities. Prevention is always the best solution to avoid unintended pregnancy. Government support will encourage more women to better protect themselves," she said.

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