According to the Guinness World Records, Taitung holds the record for the number of children born to one mother, 24. Women giving birth at age 50, having eight children by their mid-30s and 16-year-old mothers are nothing new in Taitung. While quality of life could be much better in Taitung, it would seem that the people living there have healthy sex lives, as the fertility levels of teenage women is more than double that of Taiwan’s average. The county also leads Taiwan in terms of the number of children born out of wedlock.
Taitung does not need to encourage people to have children, but birth is all that is encouraged via the National Health Insurance system, as it does not subsidize vasectomies, intrauterine contraceptive devices or oral contraceptives, which is not only unreasonable, but also backward. The urban and rural divide has seen youth pregnancies, fertility rates and children born out of wedlock increase in the Taitung region, and this is obviously linked to the severe lack of sex education, contraceptive methods and abortion services there.
Chiang Sheng is an attending physician in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mackay Memorial Hospital.
Translated by Drew Cameron