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Chinese health officials unveiled new measures this week that would discourage abortions and make fertility treatment more accessible, in an effort to boost one of the world’s lowest birth rates, Reuters reported.

The National Health Authority said it would implement new support measures ranging from taxation and insurance to education and housing. It added that it would also promote reproductive health, as well as raise awareness while “preventing unintended pregnancy and reducing abortions that are not medically necessary.”

The authority would also guide local governments to include fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization in their national medical system, which is very expensive and not available to unmarried women.

In 2021, China’s fertility rate was recorded at 1.16 births per woman – far below the 2.1 births per woman necessary to sustain a stable population number, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Officials said the new measures are aimed at “promoting the long-term balanced development of the population.”

In recent years, the Chinese government has introduced incentives and measures, such as tax deductions, housing subsidies and enhanced medical insurance to boost population numbers, which declined dramatically, in part, from its ‘one-child policy’ that ran from 1979 to 2015.

In 2016, China scrapped it and allowed parents to have two children. Five years later, that was increased to three children.

Meanwhile, China has among the highest rates of abortion globally, according to the Guttmacher Institute, with 78 percent of unintended pregnancies ending in abortion, compared with the global average of 61 percent.

Some of these pregnancies were terminated to abort female fetuses because of a preference for males. As a result, the country has 35 million more men than women, the Washington Post reported.

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