Vietnam Holds Conference on Combating Sex-Selection Abortions

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 14, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Vietnam Holds Conference on Combating Sex-Selection Abortions Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 14
, 2006

Hanoi, Vietnam ( — Two months after the Vietnamese government issued new fines hoping to prevent sex-selection abortions, the nation held a joint conference with a United Nations committee to discuss the problem. The United Nations Population Fund, criticized for supporting China’s forced abortion policy, will help the Asian nation.

Vietnam as the same problem as other nations such as China, North Korea and India, where boys are preferred and girls fall victim to abortions and infanticides.

To educate residents about the problem, the country held its first national symposium on gender imbalance issues on Tuesday.

lan Howie, a UNFPA representative, attended the meeting and told the Viet Nam News about the problems there.

"Gender-based abortions are a serious human rights violation that impedes development and worsens the socio-economic status of the entire nation — not just girls and women," he said.

"An imbalance of sexes fuels human trafficking and sexual exploitation," Howie added. "It endangers economic development and increases social instability as a growing population of men search for partners."

The latest census in 1999 in Vietnam shows the boy-girl ratio at boys to 100 girls whereas 103 boys to girls is considered normal for most countries.

There hasn’t been any attempt to gather current data and the UNFPA will help Vietnam do that and plans to complete the process by 2009.

"Vietnam’s population dynamics have changed rapidly over the past decade, accompanying swift developments in the country’s social and economic structures," Howie said, pointing to the need for new figures.

In October, the government put in place new penalties including fines of up to 15 million Vietnamese Dong (about $975 US dollars) for any abortion done for sex-selection reasons.

Anyone who uses force or threats to coerce a Vietnamese woman have an abortion for sex-selection reasons will be fined anywhere from VND 7 million to 15 million ($450-$750).

The number of abortions in Vietnam has been staggeringly high for some time and a July report indicated that teenage girls there rely on abortion as a means of birth control.

About 300,000 abortions are done in Vietnam annually and the local newspaper Labor reports that the nation’s Health Ministry said most of them are on unmarried and younger women. The Obstetrics Hospital in Hanoi does about 20-30 abortions every day and the number of abortions on teens is on the rise.

The paper said that teenagers are increasingly relying on abortion as a method of birth control and not using, or not knowing about, methods of contraception. The paper says about 20 percent of teenagers are actively having sexual relations without using any method of birth control.

The nation plans to launch contraception educational campaigns in an attempt to lower the abortion rates.

Meanwhile, one woman dies from a legal abortion in the Asian nation every five days.

The local Pioneer newspaper reported in April that there are 83 abortions for every 1,000 Vietnamese women of the childbearing age. That compares with a birth rate of only 17 babies born per 1,000 women.

The report said each local Vietnamese woman has approximately 2.5 abortions in her lifetime.

About one-third to one-half of the abortions performed there are done in small health clinics but women are dying at an alarming rate.

Vietnam has long had one of the highest abortion rates in both Asia and the world and the number of abortions has been on the rise. According to national health statistics, 760,000 abortions were carried out in 1989, 1.3 million in 1994 and 1.4 million in 1995.

In 1999, the pro-abortion Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, reported that Vietnam had the highest abortion rate of any nation.

While experts say the communist government does not espouse abortion as a birth control method, the procedure is "heavily subsidized by the government," and "many published family planning campaigns still list abortion as a method of birth control" according to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur news agency.

Vietnam is one of two countries to receive an award from the United Nations in 1998 for its population control programs.

In Vietnam, abortion is available as part of overall family planning services provided at various provincial, district and communal health facilities.

Approximately 51 percent of the 83 million residents of Vietnam are women and, as of April, 26.4 percent of the nation’s population is below the age of 15.