Anti-abortion campaign slammed as sexist, moralist in Vietnam

By Minh Nga   December 13, 2018 | 08:00 pm PT
Anti-abortion campaign slammed as sexist, moralist in Vietnam
Le Huynh Ha (L) and Le Hoang Thach, seen in a still image captured from a video clip, hold banners and wear T-shirts saying
The tenor and content of an anti-abortion campaign launched by two men has been slammed as sexist, clueless and patriarchal.

"Do you know which humanitarian crisis claims 300,000 lives each year in Vietnam?"

A video calling for a ban on abortion in Vietnam begins with the above question.

The video spearheads a campaign called "Mama! Don’t kill me" launched on December 1 by Le Hoang Thach, 30, and Le Huynh Ha, 28.

Its purpose is to collect 100,000 signatures for a petition calling the legislative National Assembly (NA) to prohibit abortion in Vietnam by issuing an anti-abortion law.

The campaign website and Facebook page say that Vietnam stands third in the world in terms of the number of abortions with more than 300,000 cases each year, and this "terrible humanitarian crisis should be ended immediately."

Vietnam ranks top in Asia and among the top five worldwide in abortion rate, according to official health reports, which recorded 275,000 abortions in the country in 2015. Doctors said about 40 percent of all pregnancies in the country end in abortion, and young people account for 20 percent of total abortions annually. The reasons vary from baby sex selection to the lack of sexual health education, and the fact that premarital sex remains a taboo, which leaves a young woman to be subject to harsh backlash if she gets pregnant out of wedlock. 

Abortion, according to Thach and Ha, can lead to under-population and negative impacts on women's physical and mental health, and that an anti-abortion law is necessary to grant women the right to demand that men use protection during sex.

The men also say that the law will protect Vietnam's moral traditions.

The two men say they plan to work with lawyers to come up with a draft version for the law and submit it to the NA in January next year if they collect enough signatures.

Those who want to sign the petition can go to the campaign's website and register their names and emails. So far, over 40,000 have signed up.

Outraged public

The two founders and the campaign itself has triggered public anger and scorn, and far more opponents than supporters.

Many have called the two men sexist and patriarchal.

Sexism and woman blaming "is deep in your [the founders] mind," Facebook user Hoang Anh wrote in a comment.

Women have the right to decide what they can do with their bodies, other social media users have said. Many have pointed out that the very name of the campaign is problematic.

Why does it have to be "Mama! Don’t kill me" and not "Papa! Don’t kill me," some have asked.

Who says the decision of having an abortion comes completely from the mother, asked Facebooker Trinh Duc Cuong. What about the baby’s father and grandparents, he asks, adding: "Please don’t make a woman look like a monster in children’s eyes."

The campaign has prompted some Facebook users to launch a parody page called, "Dad! Remember to wear condoms!"

Clueless men

The two campaigners do not understand enough about giving birth to or raising a child, that they are selfish and do not think of women who have unintended pregnancies or cannot keep their babies for other reasons, many Vietnamese netizens have said.

What if the mothers are raped or kidnapped and forced into marriage and then got pregnant? Or if a single woman in dire circumstances cannot afford to raise a child? Or if couples want to abort sick or disabled fetuses?

The campaigners first responded that these questions only emphasize the need for the law, as they prompt adults to educate their teenage children so that there is high awareness of doing the "right thing" from the start.

In an interview with local media recently, the duo also said they will include in the proposed law exemptions for rape victims, incestuous intercourse and other unavoidable situations.

Shocked, but determined

Thach and Ha said they were "shocked" at the public response, but are determined to make the campaign succeed.

"If the anti-abortion law is passed, it will force people to do the right thing in the first place and save millions of mothers from regretting their wrongful decision," Thach said.

"This is a humanitarian campaign that will do good for the society. If you can’t help us, why criticize us?"

"I have seen and heard many abortion cases and they are all very hurtful. I think I have to act and raise my voice. I believe in the campaign. We are doing this with only one purpose: saving the babies and protecting women's rights," said Ha.

"We are doing the right thing that can benefit the society. Just look at all the supporters and the signatures that we have received and you can see that," he added.

Both Ha and Thach are still single and work in HCMC.

Since 2015, they have been known for charity works through a foundation they co-founded, called the HTBC Foundation, through which they call for benefactors and raise funds for projects to support poor communities across the country.

Thach told the Thanh Nien newspaper that he was almost a victim of abortion. His family was too poor and as his parents already had two children before him, his mother had thought about abortion when she got pregnant with him.

"But my father stopped her, saying that he will work to support the family and until today, I'm still grateful for that."

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