Chinese doctors have performed more than 330m abortions since the government implemented a controversial family planning policy 40 years ago, according to official data from the health ministry.
China’s one-child policy has been the subject of a heated debate about its economic consequences as the population ages. Forced abortions and sterilisations have also been criticised by human rights campaigners such as Chen Guangcheng, the blind legal activist who sought refuge at the US embassy in Beijing last year.
China first introduced measures to limit the size of the population in 1971, encouraging couples to have fewer children. The one-child rule, with exceptions for ethnic minorities and some rural families, was implemented at the end of the decade.
Since 1971, doctors have performed 336m abortions and 196m sterilisations, the data reveal. They have also inserted 403m intrauterine devices, a normal birth control procedure in the west but one that local officials often force on women in China.