By Susan Yoshihara, Ph.D., and Lisa Correnti
Top Asian demographers, population experts, and UN staff gathered in Bangkok this week to address the region's aging crisis. Despite the severity of the low fertility predicament, abortion, contraception, and "reproductive and sexual health" were the subject of one out of every four papers presented.
Due to sustained, extremely low fertility, Asia is home to the world's oldest country, its fastest rates of aging, and its highest ratios of sex imbalance owing to the selective abortion of baby girls, leading to some 100 million "missing" women in Asia. Panel sessions included such questions as "how low can Asian fertility go," how to improve data quality and accessibility, the effects of migration and urbanization, and labor force and employment.
Nonetheless, "reproductive and sexual health" accounted for 22 papers, nearly a quarter, pondering topics such as "determinants of contraceptive choice," "risky behaviors in reproductive health," "sexual health perspectives," and "women's reproductive rights and empowerment." Half as many papers addressed poverty, and four considered infant and child health.
A paper by a RAND scholar and her collaborators revealed that where the government promoted contraception, abortion increased significantly. In Matlab, Bangladesh, the target of a celebrated experiment to see if traditional mores could be overturned to induce widespread use of contraception, the paper found that abortion increased from 38.0% to 78.6% in one of the areas studied and from 31.6% to 81.4% in the other between 1989 and 2008....