Combating overpopulation…with Korea Style No Hurt 3-Minute Abortion

Posted in Health and Medicine, Society at 8:07 pm by Benjamin Ross

abortion China one child policy

As I was meandering around downtown Fuzhou the night before last week’s Lantern Festival, I came across this sign at a bus stop. For those of you who don’t 说中国话 it’s an advertisement for the gynecology department of the Fuzhou Peace Hospital’s new “Korean-Style No Hurt 3-minute abortion.”

Back in Kansas, I remember most public advertisements for abortion usually involved a yard full of crosses each representing a child who had been “murdered,” as a result of abortion. There was nothing about them being pain-free, nothing about them only taking 3 minutes, and certainly nothing about them being Korean style.

As ridiculous, and admittedly hilarious as this sign may be, it does reveal one characteristic about Chinese people, that is that abortion in China is not nearly as sensitive as it is in the Bible Belt of North America. Abortion in China is not a controversial issue, nor is it a highly debated topic. Rather it is simply a medical procedure just like LASEC, an appendectomy, on say…a boob job (there are public signs for those too).

These days, many of China’s hospitals are privatized, and fierce competition entices them into spending large amounts of time and energy on advertising. Hospital advertisements can be seen on sign boards all over Fuzhou (especially near college campuses) with the stereotypical image of a nurse in her young twenties, and a smiling patient (usually also a woman) comfortably within her grasp. It wasn’t until I could read the word 人流 (abortion) that I realized what all the signs with happy smiling women were all about.

China just may be the most “pro-choice” country in the world, as abortion is not only 100% legal and unrestrected, but based on these advertisements, I’m assuming it’s not too difficult to get one either. Contraception is easily attainable as well. Condoms are sold at convenience stores, sex shops, and random dispensers in public places and birth control pills can be purchased for around 20 RMB (approx $1.60 USD) per month at any pharmacy, without a prescription.

One reason behind the government’s stance on contraception and abortion is that China simply has too many people. Restricting abortions would make the problem even worse. While official estimates set the population at just over 1.3 billion, it is widely accepted that the actual population may be as high as 1.6 billion.

China one child policy abortion
The big characters in the middle of this sign read “free abortion.”

To combat overpopulation, China has instituted the often criticized and aptly mistranslated “one child policy,” whereby the state limits the amount of children a couple may have. Couples in cities are usually only allowed one child, and having a second child will result in a hefty fine or possibly a loss of job in the case of government workers. Certain conditions such as being a member of a Chinese minority, having a foreign spouse, or living in designated rural areas, will allow a couple to have two.

Regardless of any perceived violation of civil liberties, China’s population is simply too massive, and the failure of the government to curtail it would bring about disaster for the country and possibly the entire world. There is simply no alternative.

One unintended outcome of the “One Child Policy” however was the ensuing drive by couples to spawn a male child. Traditionally in China, it is the responsibility of children to care for their parents in their old age. Nursing homes are rare, and that responsibility typically falls on the sons, as when a daughter marries, she becomes a member of her husband’s family, and thus her responsibility turns toward his parents. Essentially, your sons are your social security.

This system worked out fine and dandy for several thousand years, as if a son wasn’t produced on the first shot (no pun intended), a couple could try and try again. But now with the “One Child Policy” it has become essential for the first child to be a male, otherwise a couple could potentially be left to fend for themselves after retirement. The emphasis on having a son has even driven many couples to abort fetuses if they are girls.

In an interesting bit of irony, while abortion is legal in China, this favoritism towards male children has caused the government to enact a law whereby it is illegal for doctors to reveal the sex of a fetus before birth, for fear that if the parents know it is a girl, they may opt to have an abortion. This is not to say, that this does not happen, as China now mysteriously has around 30 million more men than women.

While I do not believe the government’s population policy has directly caused the latest innovations in abortion and technology and their zany add campaigns, it certainly has done nothing to curtail it. Nobody knows for sure how many abortions happen per year in China, (even if I could find statistics I wouldn’t trust them), but I am guessing the number of aborted fetuses would be enough to equal the population of several small European states. And a market that size certainly leaves room for service innovation. At least I know that if I ever unwillingly pass my seed onto a Chinese womb, I will have ethnic options when choosing my abortion technique.


  1. James China said,

    March 8, 2007 at 6:18 pm


  2. Benjamin Ross China said,

    March 9, 2007 at 10:09 pm

    James says:
    Ben, do you plan to leave your Jewish seed in China? Is that how you know so much about the One Child Policy? Right now, China is developing very fast and the social security system as getting better and better. People nowadays are talking less about having a son rather than a girl, and also talking less about having sons to take care of them in old age. Because of this, the amount of abortions for this reason is decreasing. However, abortions for a completely different reason are increasing, and that is due to the lack sex education in China. Teen pregnancy is increasing, and the number of these kinds of abortions are increasing. Therefore Ben, you need to keep an eye on your daughters.

  3. Josh China said,

    March 11, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    Interesting post.

    For as much negative press as the One Child Policy gets, I’m glad for it. In order to balance the gender gap, Chinese bachelors are going to have to import millions of foreign-born brides. It’s going to do wonders for the fusion restaurants of China’s future.

    I, for one, can’t wait to have some decent Thai food in Qingdao.

  4. Todd Wesselhoeft China said,

    March 12, 2007 at 11:17 am

    Sex Education?! There is NONE! This is the most disturbing fact of it all. For what happens when sex education is absent and people are left to wantonly copulate without a second thought towards the ensuing responsibility? Quick fixes, like the Korean style 3 minute jobbie, are put into place to masquerade the utter absence of sexual education. Sexual disease runs rampant and millions of women are left with emotional scars that are not advertised as verbosely as the abortion clinic and its simple solutions.

    And what’s with that commercial where the bird tweeters in the princess’s ear about getting an abortion. Crazy, I tell you!

  5. James China said,

    March 13, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    And what’s with that commercial where the bird tweeters in the princess’s ear about getting an abortion.请问这句中文是什么意思?

  6. Danielle Germany said,

    March 19, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    Ben this is just what you see in Fuzhou,and probably some other “big cities”. But this kind of ridiculous thing,as you just discribed,can not be seen in real international cities like Shanghai. The Shanghainese would be as shocked as you are if they saw this. I know you have done a lot of travel in China,but,nevertheless,what you see still can not represent the whole China. I,as a Chinese,still do not get the “entire essence” of my own country,how are YOU able to do this?

    China is such a huge land. Sometimes i also hate my government,well like everybody else does,but think of Germany,a country with area only three times larger than Taiwan—-they still couldn’t totally handle it after the reunification,let alone if they had a population of 1.3 billion and territory of 9.6 million square km.

    There ARE lots of things that China needs to reform,to improve and to get rid of. But the country IS developing. When we,as chinese,see corruption,we should also see those former leaders and chefs who are now in jail. We just need TIME to build a better home. And you,as a foreigner,should better not judge China anymore on the american criterion.

    I nearly puke whenever i watch a documentary about “China TODAY” in Germany. They are all about the extremely low level life in the remoted areas,leaving the spectators a shaby picture of China,and leaving me wondering,are those people of extreme ignorance doing such unreasonable thing ON purpuse?

  7. Benjamin Ross China said,

    March 19, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    I think you misunderstood the tone of my post. I was not judging the situation in China, but rather I was reporting what I see with my own eyes, and then comparing it to the situation in the US. I never intended to criticize China on this issue. In fact, based on my own personal beliefs about abortion, I am much more critical of the attitudes of many Americans (i.e. George W. Bush) towards abortion, than I am of those of the Chinese, and I think this was reflected in the post.

    Additionally, my comments in regards to the One Child Policy (which I wholeheartedly support) were mostly positive in nature. So I think you might want to reread the post. I like to joke about a lot of things, whether I support them or not, but the crux of my post was actually meant to be pro-China in this regard. Overpopulation is possibly the most pressing problem the world is facing today, and I commend the Chinese government for taking action to stop it…India, are you listening?…The one thing I do find a little ridiculous, and was attempting to make fun of in a mocking way was the “Korean Style 3 minute Painless Abortion.” Of course, this does not represent all of China. It just represents one zany add campaign from one company in one city. There are many, many, crazy add campaigns in the US (and Germany too I’m sure), but that does not mean all of the citizens have gone bananas too.

  8. Tembea Njia United States said,

    August 6, 2013 at 6:08 am

    Actually, China is not so much “pro-choice” as it is “pro-abortion” and anti-more-than-one-child. Sad how far people will go to find a “liberal” country, when the most “liberal” one is happens to also have been, and still be one of the more repressive ones.

  9. Elizabeth United States said,

    August 6, 2013 at 2:29 pm


    In America, we WISH we would have Korean Style 3 minute Painless Abortions. Lots of women are forced to give birth because of religious zealots. Access to abortion is one of the great many wonderful things about China.

  10. Anonymous United States said,

    May 9, 2014 at 3:38 am

    And women in rural China, who can’t afford to bribe a local official, are literally forced to have abortions. Strapped to a table. Look up Chen Guangcheng.

    China pro-choice? Hell no. And I favor abortion on demand, covered by healthcare, at any time for any reason!

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