Over 13 million abortions are performed in China each year, according to a report last week by China’s Population Communication Center.

A study cited by the center found that 65 percent of abortions are performed on unmarried women between 20 and 29 years old.

In addition, 50 percent of women who have abortions had used no form of birth control, while 50 percent had previously had one or more abortions, the study found.

The study was reported in the official People’s Daily on September 30, four days after state media used the occasion of World Contraception Day to examine the poor state of sex education in China today.

A nurse puts free condoms on a shelf at Tongji Medical College's reproductive medical center in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province. Pic: China Daily

A survey reported by the Global Times found that about 41 percent of Chinese teenagers learn about sex through the internet, with social networking sites and discussion boards among the most relied-upon sources of information.

“There have been improvements in sexual education for teenagers, but not all students receive it and the accuracy of the information is not guaranteed,” said Min Yuefu, an expert at the Beijing Academy of Educational Sciences.

Another survey found that only 12 percent of 1000 women aged 20 to 35 said that they “fully understood” contraception, the China Daily reported.

Wu Shangchun, a researcher at the National Population and Family Planning Commission, told the newspaper that it was necessary for birth control education to be spread “through an authoritative channel” to counteract inaccurate or misleading information found on the internet.

Other experts called for efforts to increase public awareness of a wider array of contraception options.

“The advocacy on contraceptive methods has long been focusing on long-term ones, such as intrauterine devices and tubal ligation, and the use of condoms, so people are less aware of other ways such as using contraceptive pills,” said Zhang Hanxiang, director of the China Population Communication Center.

But while last week’s abortion statistics have provoked considerable surprise and concern in China, the number of abortions performed annually has stayed relatively stable over the past several years.

The same figure of 13 million abortions each year was reported by the China Daily as early as 2009.

Officials pointed to similar factors to explain the large number of abortions, with a report by the National Population and Family Planning Commission showing that nearly half of women who had  abortions had not used any form of birth control.

About 62 percent of abortions in 2009 were by young women aged between 20 and 29, only slightly less than the figures for 2012.