Women in Jiangxi province who are at least 14 weeks pregnant now need to show medical evidence and receive government approval before getting an abortion, a policy provincial authorities say can help balance the sex ratio and protect unborn girls.
Jiangxi's Health and Family Planning Commission issued a notice on its website recently that women who are more than 14 weeks pregnant and who wish to have an abortion must have signed approvals by three medical professionals confirming that the procedure is medically necessary.
The rule sparked debate among Chinese netizens, with some saying it crossed the line between government power and private rights, and that it infringes upon women's freedom of choice.
Responding to the public attention, an unnamed official from the commission told Jiangxi Daily on Friday that this is not a new practice. It has been in place for a long time as part of the province's efforts to regulate newborns' sex ratios, the official said.
"Promoting equality between the sexes is one of our fundamental national policies. However, fetal sex identification or selective abortions that have no appropriate medical reason have been leading to a long-term sex ratio imbalance that will consequently compromise the sustainable development of the population and stability of society," the newspaper quoted the official as saying.
In addition, some people in the province want to have boys based on outdated notions that male heirs will support them in old age and carry on the family line, the official said.
Jiangxi has been paying great attention in recent years to balancing the sex ratio, the official said, noting that the policy move is an important measure to implement related clauses in laws and regulations, to safeguard girls' rights and ensure their healthy growth.
The commission will strictly execute the rule to boost gender equality and social sustainability, the official was quoted as saying. The commission reminds young people of the importance of contraception to reduce unnecessary hazards to women's health, the official said.