Premarital Abortion in China : Intimacy, Family and Reproduction book cover
1st Edition

Premarital Abortion in China
Intimacy, Family and Reproduction

ISBN 9781032286518
Published November 30, 2022 by Routledge
198 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Drawing on participant observations, in-depth interviews, and content analysis of online materials, Lai investigates the role of individual choice, relationships, and institutions in unmarried Chinese women’s decisions to terminate their pregnancies.

Where many previous studies have focused on abortion in China as a state-mandated procedure to enforce the one-child policy, Lai looks at a new era, where abortion is primarily based on individuals’ decisions. While young women in China enjoy greater freedom to pursue their personal, sexual, and reproductive aspirations, their autonomy remains constrained by structural inequalities of gender, class, and migration status, which are reproduced through the intersection of state policies, market forces, and patriarchal family culture. In this book, Lai recounts the stories and presents the voices of unmarried young adult women, and documents the impact of sweeping socioeconomic transformation on their reproductive experiences in contemporary China amidst the ending of the one-child policy.

Essential reading for scholars of Chinese society and of family and gender studies globally.

Table of Contents

List of figures

List of tables


1 Introduction

Premarital Abortion as the Subject of Analysis

Constructing an Analytical Framework for the Study of Premarital Abortion in China

Studying Premarital Abortion in China

The Research Site

Characteristics of Informants

Ethical Considerations

The Organization of the Book

2 Premarital Abortion and Reproductive Politics in China

From Taboo to Social Problem

State Policies and Premarital Abortion

Intimacy, Marriage, Family, and Premarital Abortion

Contextualizing Premarital Abortion in the East Asian Demographic Transition

The Present Framework

3 The “Complete Life” in Reality: The Decision-Making of Premarital Abortion

Self-Governing Reproductive Agency in the Making

The “Choice” of Abortion

Postponing Familial Role

Rejecting a Hasty Marriage

Fear of Being a Single Mother

Pursuing a “Nested Birth”

Preparing for a Quality Child


4 The Intimate Trial: Couple Interaction during Premarital Abortion

Normalizing Sex, Pragmatizing Love

Seeking a Kaopu Man

“Authentic” Sex and “Somewhat Poisonous” Pill: Couple’s Contraceptive Use

Abortion as the Intimate Trial

Immediate Reaction to Pregnancy

Abortion Decision-Making

Assistance in Medical Procedures


Financial Contribution

Rationalizing Love: Women’s Reflections on Intimate Relationships after an Abortion


5 The Bonded Daughter: Intergenerational Dynamics and Premarital Abortion

Parental Expectations of a Daughter’s Future Husband and Marriage

Partner’s Socioeconomic Capacity

Geographical Proximity

Partner’s Personal Qualities

Familial Reputation

Intergenerational Interactions during an Abortion

Excluding Parents from Their Abortion

Referencing Perceived Parental Views

Consulting Parents

Conforming to Parental Intervention


6 Articulating Abortion: Women’s Post-Abortion Experiences

Articulating Complex Emotions

Navigating the Reflexive Self after Abortion

Infertility Panic and the Damaged Body

(De)personifying the Fetus, Regulating Emotions

Reframing Responsibility

Contesting the Meaning of “Rights”

Reclaiming Reputation


7 Humanized Care in Practice: Abortion Provisions in China

The Emergence of Humanized Care in China

Abortion Services in Three Medical Contexts

Basic Care in Public Hospitals

Commodified Care: For-Profit Private Hospitals

Patient-Centered Care: Community Clinic


8 Premarital Abortion and Reproductive Justice in China: Now and the Future

Premarital Abortion in the Era of Demographic Challenges

The Future of Reproductive Justice in China


Socioeconomic Characteristics of the Women (N = 62)



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Ruby Y. S. Lai is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Policy at Lingnan University, specializing in gender, family, and reproduction.