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336 million Chinese abortions in 40 years

Beijing's one-child policy has been subject of heated debate about its economic consequences as the population ages.
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2013 08:54
Latest census in 2010 showed that population could have been 400m larger without China's one-child policy [Reuters]

Chinese doctors have performed more than 330 million abortions since the government implemented a controversial one-child policy 40 years ago, according to official data from the health ministry.

"After the reform, China will adhere to and improve the family planning policy"

- Ma Kai, secretary-general

Data posted on the health ministry website shows that since 1971 - shortly before China started encouraging people to have fewer children - doctors have performed 336 million abortions.

The Chinese government has previously estimated that without the family planning policy restrictions, the country's 1.3 billion population would be 30 percent larger.

Official statistics showed that in addition to the abortions, Chinese doctors have sterilised 196 million men and women since 1971.

The incoming Chinese leadership has already moved to dismantle the Family Planning Commission.

"After the reform, China will adhere to and improve the family planning policy," Ma Kai, secretary-general of the State Council, China's cabinet, said when the move was announced, according to the official Xinhua news agency on Saturday.

The move was included in a report on governmental restructuring submitted to the National People's Congress, the country's legislature, which ends its annual session on Sunday.

'Harsh methods'

China has announced structural changes to its family planning system which oversees the controversial one-child policy during the ongoing annual meeting of the national legislature in Beijing.

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The People's Republic says that its one-child policy introduced in 1978 and enacted in 1979, has prevented overpopulation and boosted economic development.

The policy, which limits urban families to one child, exempts some rural families, ethnic minorities and couples who are both only children.

Those who contravene the rules must pay a fine.

Calls have increased, however, for the restriction to be phased out as the country's labour force shrinks and the ranks of the elderly swell. Human rights groups have criticised what they say are "harsh enforcement methods".

Last Sunday, the government announced the merger of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, which oversees the policy, with the health ministry in a move state media said was meant to improve, not abandon the one-child policy.

China's latest census in 2010 showed that the population could have been 400 million larger if the one-child policy had not been implemented, according to Xinhua.

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