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BEIJING, China, 24 May 2022 – Globally, nearly half of all pregnancies, totalling 121 million each year, are unintended. For the women and girls affected, the most life-altering  reproductive choice—whether or not to become pregnant—is no choice at all, explains the State of  World  Population  2022  report,  released  online today  by  UNFPA,  the United Nations Population Fund in Beijing, China.

The report, entitled “Seeing the Unseen: The case for action in the neglected crisis of unintended pregnancy,” warns that unintended pregnancy has profound consequences for societies, women and girls and global health. Over 60 per cent of unintended pregnancies end in induced abortion and an estimated 45 per cent of all abortions are unsafe, causing between 5 – 13 per cent of all maternal deaths, thereby having a major impact on the world’s ability to reach the Sustainable Development Goals.

“We are fast approaching 2030, the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals. It is the time to accelerate, and to transform the lives of women and girls and reach those furthest behind. The United Nations system is working closely with the Government of China to advance the global agenda in both China and other developing countries,” says Mr. Siddharth Chatterjee, the UN Resident Coordinator to China at the opening of the report.

The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals set specific targets of reducing the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births, and ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services, including for family planning, sexual and reproductive health information and education by 2030.

China has made progress in achieving the SDGs. The national maternal mortality ratio has decreased from 89 per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 16.9 per 100,000 live births in 2020. The national contraceptive prevalence rate among married women was 80.6% in 2018.

However, there are still about 9 million abortions performed annually, and 23 per cent of the sexually active unmarried young women are reported to have had unintended pregnancies.

“Unintended pregnancy unleashes significant consequences for a woman and girl’s health, life and for the wider society. Globally, unintended pregnancies cost health systems billions of dollars every year. It is linked to negative social, mental and physical health consequences and increased vulnerability to poverty. The opportunity costs of millions of women and girls who delay or discontinue their education and/or workforce participation is vast, with lifetime and intergenerational impacts on earnings and health,” says Dr. Justine Coulson, the UNFPA Representative to China, as she presented the global report.

China is committed to further reduction of maternal deaths and improvement of sexual and reproductive health. The National Women’s Development Programme (2021-2030) explicitly states that China will strive to achieve universal coverage of reproductive health and childbirth knowledge, promote maternal health and reduce unintended pregnancy by 2030. It is committed to sharing its experiences on maternal health with more developing countries through the Platform on China-Africa Cooperation and the South-South Cooperation.

China Family Planning Association, as the largest non-governmental organization on family planning and reproductive health in China, set the “reduction of unintended pregnancy and abortion among young people, improvement of reproductive health for all” as a priority for its work in 2022.

“Like many other countries, China is facing reproductive health issues. The report on reproductive health in China we released in 2021 points out that the country is having the increasing high abortion rate, an increasing unmet need for contraception and the outstanding issues with the unmarried and migrant populations. China Family Planning Association is committed to sexual and reproductive health and has implemented the Youth Health initiative for over 20 years in promoting young people’s access to age appropriate and youth friendly sexual and reproductive health information and services. ” says Ms. Hong Ping, Deputy Secretary-General of China Family Planning Association in the keynote session on “reducing unintended pregnancy, promoting reproductive health”.

Six guests including Professor Li Hongtao from China Women’s University, Dr. Liu Hongyan, Deputy Director-General of China Population and Development Research Center, Ms. Lily Liu Liqing, Country Director of Marie Stopes International China, Dr. Fan Weiqun from the Online Hospital of JD Health, Dr. Zhang Yu from Beijing United Family Hospital and Mr. Huang Zhihong from China Youth Network joined a panel discussion on unintended pregnancy in China. 

Many of them have been working on the frontlines in preventing unintended pregnancy and supporting women and girls with better access to sexual and reproductive health, including by doing research, offering clinical or online counselling services, conducting advocacy or providing capacity buildings.

The event was moderated by Ms. Sun Xuemei, Deputy Chief Editor of More than 50 people from the United Nations system, government agencies, academia, think tanks, NGOs, embassies, the health sector, private sector, media as well as groups of women and young people participated in the online event.

As a complement to the event, UNFPA China in partnership with Ifeng Philanthropy are launching an online activity and engaging people from all walks of life to join the advocacy in preventing unintended pregnancy among young people in China.

Notes to editors 

The State of World Population report is UNFPA’s annual flagship publication. Published yearly since 1978, it shines a light on emerging issues in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights, bringing them into the mainstream and exploring the challenges and opportunities they present for international development. 

The report’s analysis builds upon new data from our partner, the Guttmacher Institute, released on 29 March.

As  the  United  Nations  sexual  and  reproductive  health  agency,  UNFPA  helps  people  obtain contraception and life-saving reproductive health services and information and empowers women and girls to make informed decisions about their bodies and lives.