Prenatal exams become pretext for abortion
Last week, Viet Nam News asked its readers whether it is morally acceptable to terminate a pregnancy before normal childbirth based on the results of pre-natal tests, and should people be allowed to decide the fate of babies with disabilities or abnormalities, for instance those with Down syndrome, just for the sake of themselves and their families. Here are some replies.
Natalie Tolkacheva, Russian, HCM City
First of all, abortion is a difficult choice for a family, especially the mother. However, in the specific cases you are asking, I must say yes to the choice.
Earlier this week, hundreds of people waited in line from 11pm until 7:30am outside shops in Ha Noi and HCM City, awaiting the release of the Samsung Galaxy SIII in Viet Nam, priced at around VND15 million (US$700).
In a country where the per capita income only reached $1,130 at the end of 2010 and the minimum wage is VND1.05 million ($48) per month, many people still crave the newest models of smartphones and tablet computers, especially among office workers, college students and youngsters.
Catching up with other Asian countries such as South Korea or China, Viet Nam is becoming an attractive market for smartphone makers.
Despite slower economic growth and increased living costs, the country recorded a 73 per cent increase in smartphone sales in 2011, and the increase put the value of the country's smartphone market at an estimated $280 million, according to GfK Viet Nam, a global market research company in consumer technology products.
It forecasts growth in Viet Nam's smartphone market would reach 51 per cent this year.
What do you think of Vietnamese people's appetite for stylish technology products as a way to prove their social status? Are you also a fan of the newest gadgets? Do you feel a need to change your phone when a new model comes out? How can you resist the temptations of new products?
Please reply by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax to (84-4) 3 933 2311. Letters can be sent to The Editor, Viet Nam News, 11 Tran Hung Dao Street, Ha Noi. Replies to this week's questions must be received by Thursday morning, June 7.
As a mother of two, I do not think that keeping an abnormal child is something more human than having an abortion in a society like Viet Nam (of course, those unlucky people should double-check to make sure the results are correct).
Some may criticise me for being cold hearted, but I know why I say so. First, giving birth to a child with Down syndrome can be devastating for both you and your family.
For those who knowingly keep a child with Down syndrome, are they sure that the child would want to live that life, a life in which they do not know who they are or what they are doing?
Economically, in Viet Nam there are too many people born with abnormalities, and due to poor healthcare, even ordinary people can have problems. So is this what they define as humane?
In terms of education, children with Down syndrome struggle to learn in ordinary schools, and there are very few special schools in Viet Nam that cater for them.
Lastly, I once more want to emphasise that it is a difficult choice. If you are confident and wealthy enough to bring up a child with an abnormality, helping to receive the correct treatment for their problem, then it could be good. But if you cannot, you must make your choice, no matter how difficult it is.
Lawry Bee Tin Yeo, Singaporean, HCM City
Down syndrome is an abnormality in the chromosomes discovered in an unborn child during the early stage of pre-natal tests. Typically the child will be born with a face with rather flattened features and with lower-than-average intelligence. It will be difficult and terrible to be faced with such a situation. One can imagine the degree of frustration the parents will be faced with when making such a decision.
If nothing is done, the parents will have to live with their decision and care for the child for life. The time and the sacrifice will be great. It takes a very self-controlled, loving and patient parent to face a situation like this. If the woman can get through the pregnancy, I believe she can handle it when the child is delivered. If the parents choose to abort the child for not wanting to see the child facing difficulties in this modern society, it may amount to murder in certain countries.
If the country where the parents are living makes it legal to have an abortion due to this type of deformity, it would be best to adopt it and treat the matter as a "miscarriage" to clear ones conscience.
Huong Thieu Huyen, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
I don't agree with the opinion that abortion is always wrong. Sex-selective abortion is totally wrong, it's a crime. However, abortion can be acceptable if continuing gestation can pose a risk to the life of mother, or the foetus is found to have severe disabilities and abnormalities. I appreciate Japanese people who still choose to give birth to babies with Down syndrome and hopefully, medical improvements and better social development could ensure them comfortable lives. But it's a fact that life is never easy for the babies as well as their families. You can try your best to give them the best care, best conditions and best medicine to relieve their pain, you can feel their pain, but actually, you can't suffer the pain for them. They have to do it on their own. If a baby is found to have disabilities or abnormalities, it's a fight that the whole family has to face.
Nowadays, thanks to pre-natal testing and screening and other advanced medical technologies, people can control and minimise the occurrences of such fights. I think that unless there is a problem, no doctor wants to advise an expectant mother to give up her baby.
In many cases, for religious reasons or beliefs, people choose to keep babies with abnormalities, regardless of the risks to both baby and mother. They say that killing a foetus is the same as killing a person. But superstitiously, after death, people can go to heaven or hell, or they are reincarnated as another person. So, I think the aborted foetuses soon find another life without disabilities or abnormalities.
Kristy Lu, Chinese, Ha Noi
I agree with the idea of terminating a pregnancy if there are negative results from pre-natal screening or warnings from doctors.
As far as I know, doctors have to repeat the tests two or three times before they come to a final conclusion on which they advise an abortion.
But it is a fact of life that sometimes mistakes are made, not only in medical care but in all aspects of life.
My argument is mostly based on the case of my nephew. His mother decided to stop her pregnancy in the 30th week after doctors told her the baby had a problem in his brain.
She was given medication to induce a premature birth, but the baby was born alive. Doctors said he would die in a matter of hours, but he survived and is still alive today at the age of four. Further tests proved that the pre-natal screening had been correct, and his condition has left him bedridden and totally reliant on his family. One of his parents has to stay home to take care for him all day while the other works hard to feed the family, who also have high medical costs from frequent trips to hospital.
Difficult living conditions due to their poor economic situation often make them angry with each other. They are also under so much stress that they refuse to have a second child, worried that the same thing would happen again.
In my opinion, the kid is not only a burden to his family, but also to society. Despite advances in medical care and treatment, these abnormalities are inborn and cannot be cured.
In the case of my nephew, if the termination had been successful, the family would be much happier with another child and enough money for a better life. Moreover, society would have been able to save time and money for kids with other diseases that can be treated.
Rie Watanabe, Japanese, Ha Noi
Abortion is totally wrong. Abortion means killing an unborn person. Unborn humans, including those with Down syndrome, still are people. It's not the baby's fault if it accidentally has 47 chromosomes (like those with Down syndrome) instead of 46 (most everyone else).
In fact, the abortion rate for those with Down syndrome is even higher in places like Japan though the Maternity Protection Law does not permit embryos and foetuses to be aborted due to abnormalities. Instead, these abnormalities are broadly interpreted as conditions that could harm pregnant women.
To me, this is very sad. I see it as a cruel crime. Those who are detected with abnormalities such as Down syndrome are babies with life, lives that would reach out and touch people. They are denied the right to play on swings, on slides. They do not have an opportunity to grow up and have a birthday. I think it's heart breaking to terminate a pregnancy due to results of pre-natal screenings. — VNS