On social media on Monday, after some state-backed news outlets highlighted the line about abortion in the guidelines, some users wondered whether more restrictions were on the way. “Contraception can fail, so not finding a partner is the safest bet,” said one popular comment on the Weibo social media platform.
In general, many women are deeply suspicious of how the government will try to boost the country’s anemic birthrates, said Lu Pin, a Chinese feminist activist. Earlier this year, the government imposed a cooling-off period for couples seeking divorce, which some saw as a way of forcing women to stay in marriages and have children.
“Chinese women are always forced by the state and used by the state,” Ms. Lu said in an interview in June, noting that some women had worried about potential limits on contraception, which is currently widely available.
Those fears do not seem to have materialized yet. Monday’s report in fact promised to improve women’s access to contraception, as well as to increase sex education.
Ms. Feng, the founder of the Beijing-based organization, emphasized that the lone mention of reducing abortions came in a long report of more than 50,000 Chinese characters. She pointed to other parts of the report that she called encouraging, such as pledges to combat gender discrimination in the workplace, improve educational opportunities for women and promote sharing housework between men and women.
Still, she acknowledged the yawning gap between official rhetoric and reality. State media outlets have recently attacked the perceived “feminization” of Chinese men, and social media platforms have censored feminist activists. Though the report affirms the authorities’ stance against sexual harassment, a judge this month ruled against the plaintiff in the most high-profile harassment case to come out of China’s Me Too movement.
“Women’s development involves many responsible departments,” Ms. Feng said. “And how those responsible departments implement their specific measures requires more attention and promotion.”
Joy Dong contributed research