Online abortion loans for Chinese college students fuel controversy over morality, safe sex awareness

SHANGHAI – An internet company in southern China’s Guangzhou city has sparked controversy after it announced a new social media app to provide interest-free loans to help pregnant college students pay for an abortion. Some said the move was a breakthrough, in a country where once-taboo premarital sex is increasingly common, but stigma against it remains high. But critics say it can only increase the rate of abortions and encourage unprotected sex.

Company founder Yan Zhengsheng said local media that he got the idea after getting his girlfriend pregnant during his last year of college, and found that an abortion and related medical care cost over $ 1,600. He said he didn’t dare tell his parents and had to borrow money from friends to fund the procedure.

Guangzhou Southern Metropolis Daily commented that such an amount, equivalent to two or three months’ wages for many urban Chinese citizens, would be difficult to pay for white-collar workers, let alone university students. He said Chinese students generally had no income and would have to borrow heavily, or go to an unauthorized abortion clinic or use a chemical abortion pill, which he said could be “very harmful.”

University students wave a large red ribbon during an HIV / AIDS awareness rally ahead of World AIDS Day in Shenyang, Liaoning province, November 29, 2008. Photo: Reuters

Yan said the new loan platform, called “Anliubao,” or “Peaceful Abortion Treasure,” would allow students to pay for the procedure in installments over several months. He said his company was working with a local hospital and that it would also provide doctors to counsel students who were considering having an abortion.

“We do not encourage premarital sex, but we hope that if something unforeseen happens, young people can afford better treatment,” he told the Southern Metropolis Daily.

Yan added that a survey conducted by his company of a thousand students showed that more than 60% had had sex in college, and in more than a third of cases, the sex did not. were not protected.

However, the Southern Metropolis Daily asked if the new service would really help reduce the damage caused by abortion, or encourage more “wanton” behavior, and push students further into “an abyss of sin.”

And some commentators online and in the media have said that by making it easier for students to abort, without the embarrassment of having to borrow money from their families, the loan service could make them “less responsible” and create a vicious cycle, where the rate of unwanted pregnancies and multiple abortions have increased.

A media expert noted that many students did not know that an abortion could have long-term consequences, such as infertility. She also criticized hospitals for advertising “painless abortions” and said the most important thing was for students to adopt a “correct attitude towards sex”. Internet user suggested it was “shocking” that a morality question was used to “promote an online fundraising platform”.

However, founder Yan pointed out that his company also plans to provide free safe sex classes for students, and said people in China have to face the fact that “premarital sex takes place and is more and more common “.

Announcement HK_Condom Models pose with a replica condom at the 2001 Durex Global Sex Survey press conference in Hong Kong on November 27, 2001. Photo: Reuters

Official surveys showed that over 60% of Chinese youth are now okay with the idea of ​​having premarital sex – and that more than half of teenage girls who have sex don’t take precautions the first time, and around 21 % of them get pregnant. According to the official statistics, at least 13 million abortions are performed in China each year, more than half of which involve women under 25.

Many Chinese sociologists have said the country needs a rapid improvement in its sex education, in order to keep pace with rapidly changing social attitudes. However, this remains a controversial issue, some sex educators accused of misleading children have been faced with physical attacks.

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