Abortion rate in Vietnam highest in Asia

By VnExpress   September 30, 2016 | 01:31 am PT
Abortion rate in Vietnam highest in Asia
A private clinic offering 4D fetus imaging service, pictured in central Hanoi, on October 22, 2014. Photo by AFP/Hoang Dinh Nam.
On average, every woman of a reproductive age undergoes 2.5 abortions.

About 40 percent of all pregnancies in Vietnam end in abortion, twice as many as the government’s official records, doctors from Hanoi's Central Obstetrics Hospital said in a report.

Every woman of a reproductive age undergoes 2.5 abortions on average, according to the report.

“Vietnam has one of the highest [abortion] rates in the world. It is just sad,” Dr. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong, a seasoned obstetrician, said at a recent workshop on contraception and reproductive health services.

Notably, young people account for 20 percent of total abortions annually, Phuong said, citing the World Health Organization.

The figure is indicative of a growing number of young people having sex before marriage. Official statistics show that about 36 percent of Vietnamese adolescents aged between 14 and 17 have had sex, and around 8.4 percent of females from 15 to 24 have had at least one abortion.

In Vietnam, premarital sex remains a taboo. A young woman who gets pregnant out of wedlock is likely to face harsh backlash from society and family. As a consequence, unmarried women have to turn to private clinics to have an abortion.

About 70 percent of secret abortions are performed on teenagers aged between 13 and 19, said Nguyen Thi Hoai Duc, the director of the Institute for Reproductive and Family Health.

“Many girls visit clinics three or four times to have abortions even though they have greater access to contraception and they are already aware of the risks of abortion,” Duc said.

In Vietnam, abortions in the first 22 weeks of pregnancy are legal and available upon request at both public hospitals and private clinics across the country.

However, doctors say it is dangerous to carry out an abortion when the fetus is more than 12 weeks old.

It is estimated that about 25 percent of abortions are unsafe in Vietnam, heath authorities said, adding that deaths due to complications remain close to 13 percent all maternal deaths.

The Ho Chi Minh City-based Tu Du Hospital, the largest obstetrics hospital in southern Vietnam, said abortion numbers are continuing to rise. At one point it was so alarming that the reported abortion ratio to live birth at the hospital was 1:1.

The hospital carried out approximately 29,000 abortions in 2015, and in the first six months of this year over 14,000 pregnancies were terminated.

Doctors blame a lack of sex education and birth control measures for causing the high abortion rate. Many women who have abortions never meant to get pregnant, Dr. Phuong said.

The majority of women are not fully informed about reliable and lasting contraceptive options, leading to unintended pregnancies, she said.

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