Saturday, April 28, 2007

Teenage Abortions on the Rise in Beijing

Thousands of teenage girls in Beijing have abortions each year, according to teenage sex clinics.

Sources with Beijing Tian'an Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the first in Beijing to open a hotline for pregnant teenagers, said more than 100 teenage girls received abortions during the first three months of the year.

Of nearly 5,000 phone calls from teenagers, 7 to 8 percent are from unmarried girls asking about abortion. The proportion was only about 5 percent last year, said Deng Jun, a doctor with the teenager counseling service of Beijing No.2 Hospital.

The total number of teenage abortions in the capital is not known.

"Girls who have abortions are considerably younger. Most of them are middle school students aged 14 to 15," said Deng, adding the youngest patient to come for an abortion was a 13-year-old and some girls had abortions many times.

"Two years ago, teenage pregnancy mainly happened to college and high school students," he said.

The number of abortions peaks during the Spring Festival, May Day or National Day holidays and in the final term of the academic year, Deng said, adding that sex education at school and in the family is wholly inadequate with young people nowadays having their first sexual experiences at a much earlier age.

Sex education has always been a low priority in schools, and parents are often reluctant to talk about the still-taboo issue.

A survey conducted by Professor Huo Jinzhi from the medical school of Suzhou University showed 4.6 percent of middle school students had had sex compared with 4.2 percent in high schools.

In September 2004, the country for the first time included sex and reproduction knowledge in the formal school curriculum.

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