By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

HANOI, Vietnam, March 22, 2010 ( – Rising abortion rates, especially among unmarried teens, and widespread sex-selective abortions, are causing psychological trauma to many Vietnamese doctors, according to VietNamNet report.

Dr. Nguyen Thi Hong Minh, director of the Central Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital in Hanoi, said she more and more frequently has to confront her “worst fears, having to abort unborn babies that are 20-22 weeks old, when their bodies are fully formed,” as the number of mothers seeking abortion steadily increases.

Minh said her hospital does more than 40 abortions every day, many of them students and teenagers.

“I always feel a sharp pain along my back when I have to treat those unlucky babies,” Minh said as she described the abortion procedure she uses where, “the nutrition between the mother and baby is cut and the fetus dies in the womb in most cases.”

“But some fetuses are delivered so quickly and they manage to take a breath before they’re gone. There’s no way to save them as they weigh only 400 grams or so.

“As a woman, I am really hurt. Other children are born with so much care and love. But these 20 to 22 week old babies, already little dolls and they have to die.”

Dr. Minh revealed that she and many other abortionists seek consolation after performing abortions by “frequently visiting pagodas, trying to find some peace.”

“The psychological trauma faced by doctors could emerge as an important issue with the rapidly increasing number of people seeking to have abortions,” Dr. Minh concluded.

In Vietnam, which has an official two-child policy, abortion is legal and available in most provincial, district and communal health facilities.

However, Vietnamese Ministry of Health officials are becoming alarmed at the rising abortion rate for teens, which accounts for more than one third of the “official” 400,000 abortions that are committed in the country annually.

One official confirmed to VietNamNet that the official statistics were based “on central hospital data so the actual number of abortions would be much higher because most unmarried pregnant teenagers tried to hide their situation and went to private clinics.”

Nguyen Thi Hoai Duc, head of Ministry of Health’s Reproductive Health and Family Institute, said in a VietNamNet Bridge report that Vietnam “topped the list of countries with the largest number of abortions” and that “abortions in the country’s unmarried teenagers was much higher than many other countries near the top of the list.”

In fact, according to a report from Planned Parenthood’s Guttmacher Institute, Vietnam has one of the highest abortion rate in the world, with about two million abortions taking place annually, which represents an abortion rate of 111 per 1,000 women aged 15–44, or a ratio of 58.2 abortions per 100 known pregnancies. The total abortion rate indicates that the average woman would have 3.32 abortions during her lifetime.

Moreover, health officials are reportedly beginning to sound the alarm over both the physical and psychological damage caused by abortion, and especially the dangers to teens of abortion in the country’s legal private clinics.

Nguyen Kim Cuc, Vice President of the Viet Nam Family Planning Association, said using private abortion clinics placed a women’s health at risk.

“Should there be a problem during the procedure, private clinics do not have adequate equipment for emergency aid,” Cuc said. “Complications such as infection or incomplete removal can easily occur, endangering these women’s health, whether in the long or short term. They might never be able to have babies again.”

Psychologist Bui Thi Hiep of the Child Psychology Research Centre said that “abortion had a major psychological impact on any woman, let alone a young girl, who would be nagged by her unborn baby for a while and easily stressed or depressed.”

Dr Hoang Ba Thinh, head of Centre for Gender, Population and Social Work, observed that the rapid spread of pre-marital sex and the consequent rise in teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases is a result of a cultural shift away from traditional norms of morality.

“In the past pre-marital sex was taboo and would have been condemned by the whole society so people were afraid and did not dare to violate the rule. In the integrated world, however, people’s minds had become more open to the issue,” Thinh said.

Late last year Vietnam’s General Department of Population and Family Planning reported that the government intended to criminalize pre-natal gender selection screening and sex-selective abortion.

The department’s vice director, Nguyen Van Tan, said the move aimed to minimize sex imbalances, which were likely to become “a serious problem if decisive measures were not taken.” Vietnamese statistics show that about 112 boys are now being born for every 100 girls, with localized increases to between 115 to 123 boys for every 100 girls in some areas.

Statistics also reveal that two thirds of pregnant women nationally sought information about their child’s gender, mostly though ultrasound.

The draft of the legislation calls for fines up to VND15 million ($833) for parents who use ultrasound to determine the gender of an unborn child so they can opt for abortion, to VND20 million ($1,100) and license revocation for doctors and reproductive health workers who carry out sex-selective abortions.

See related LSN articles:

Vietnam Joins List of Sex-Selecting Countries Heading for Demographic Implosion

Study: Rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Increased 61% After Abortion

International Medical Conference Exposes Serious Consequences of Abortion