Abortion Among Unmarried Female Migrant Workers in China: Modes of Parental Influence

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 11:45
Location: Hörsaal I (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Yuen Shan LAI, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Despite the absence of official data, extensive evidence at national and regional levels indicates a rising trend of premarital abortion in China during the past three decades. Premarital abortion is often perceived as the eventual consequence of increasing sexual freedom and of the lack of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) knowledge of young women, and the phenomenon is even more prevalent among female migrants, who usually have poorer SRH knowledge. While migration and the prevalence of unprotected sex may be the reasons for the increase in the number of unintended pregnancies among young female migrants, these factors can hardly account for their choice of abortion, which is often constituted by various kinds of considerations influenced by interpersonal power dynamics and the preexisting socio-cultural and economic structure where individuals are situated. This paper argues that parental influence is one of the factors that influence the abortion decision of unmarried female migrants in China. It attempts to reveal and examine the role played by parents and parent-daughter interactions during the process of abortion decision-making. Based on ethnographic observations and in-depth interviews with 30 (n=30) women who have experienced at least one premarital abortion in a city in Shandong, China, this paper illustrates the considerations behind parents’ direct and indirect involvements in daughters’ abortion decisions, as well as their negotiations. As reflected by the data, parental involvements are mediated by parents’ expectations on their daughter’s future husband, marriage and family life, which are often shaped by the living ideals constituted under the current socio-economic structure and embedded with their own cultural and moral beliefs in marriage, reproduction and family. Three modes of parental influences are classified, reflecting various degrees of parental control and daughter’s autonomy exercised in the course of abortion decision-making, as well as the changing parent-daughter relationship dynamics in contemporary China.