1st Edition

Premarital Abortion in China Intimacy, Family and Reproduction

By Ruby Lai Copyright 2023
    198 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    198 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    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.

    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)




    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.