Abortion clinics like this one in Guangzhou draw pregnant women from across China, and beyond.

Thin, dull yellow, wooden benches line the stuffy waiting room. Barred windows send blocks of light onto a once white linoleum floor. Although this is a hospital, it smells of neither sterilization fluid nor menthol rub, but of human sweat. Along a dim hallway, young women in all stages of pregnancy wait on more paint-chipped benches. A metal examination table, stirrups down and unused, lies to one side. There is no central air-conditioning.

This was Guangzhou's finest, grade A public hospital when it was built 40 years ago. Now, it is one of hundreds of private and...

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