With teenage pregnancy on the rise, one organization is trying to make a difference, as the city's "teenage pregnancy hotline" faces its busiest time of the year.
"We receive about 20 calls a day for consultation," Zhang Dasheng, director of the Harbin Hope Psychology Consulting Centre, said on Friday.
Four years ago, Zhang, a Peking University graduate, set up the country's first hotline providing free consultations for young girls who accidentally get pregnant.
The current rise in the number of calls for help was expected as it is now the schools summer vacation period and most of the callers, according to Zhang, are senior-high schoolgirls, aged between 17-18 years old.
"I think I'm pregnant, but I don't dare to tell my mum," is the dilemma faced by many callers.
"What shall I do? What if I really am pregnant? How can I cope with it? Where is the safest place to do the abortion? Will there be any aftermath?" are just some of the questions tackled on a daily basis by the centre.
Everyday, Zhang and his colleagues listen to these voices anxious for help, answer their questions and comfort them with care and patience.
"The summer or winter vacation tends to be the peak time for the girls to have an abortion as they want to avoid being found out by their teachers and parents," Zhang said.
"We comfort them, ask them some questions to see whether they are really pregnant, offer our suggestions, and most importantly, try to support them emotionally," he said.
"They are so scared with the idea of pregnancy and are even more afraid to tell their parents," he said.
As the topic of sex is still taboo for many Chinese, sex education lags far behind that of other countries.
Getting pregnant before marriage is definitely considered as something extremely "immoral" and "indecent."
"Girls of this age are often curious about the changes occurring in their bodies and are eager to know more about sex.
"However, they have no place to access such information," he said.
"We sometimes receive some calls asking nervously whether kisses can lead to pregnancy," he said.
"So to some extent, we are also doing a kind of job to popularize sex education," he added.
Zhang's centre signed an agreement with the 211 Hospital of People's Liberation Army in Harbin to receive these girls.
"These girls can go to the hospital for the abortion without registration as long as they have our referral letter. They get the green light all the way."
"We consider their privacy to be the most important thing. The doctors in the hospital, therefore, are told not to ask any questions, so the whole process can take place in complete anonymity."
As the problem of teenage pregnancy is on the increase, a trend witnessed nationwide, many cities, such as Chongqing, Hangzhou, Jinan and Chengdu, have set up similar organizations.
They all offer consultations, contraception and safe abortions.
Zhang said that the hotline has received more than 3,000 consulting calls since it was founded.
(China Daily August 8, 2005)