|A range of obstetrics and gynecology clinics sit along Giai Phong Street, across from Bach Mai Hospital. — Illustrative photo vietnamnet.vn
HA NOI (VNS) — A range of obstetrics and gynecology clinics sit along Giai Phong Street, across from Bach Mai Hospital.
Staff members wearing white blouses wait at the front doors of those private facilities, ready to approach anyone who passes by slowly or appears to be seeking an abortion.
It is a tacit understanding that those who come to the clinics want to end their pregnancies rather than receive prenatal check-ups. Most of them are teenagers.
Three young couples between the ages of 17 and 20 who were waiting for an abortion at one of the clinics said they had "made a mistake" and had come to "solve the problem". One young woman said it was her third procedure.
"You made mistakes, then you end it - no big problem," a 20-year-old woman calmly told an undercover reporter of Kinh Te Do Thi (Urban Economy) newspaper. "Many clinics offer this service. This is very easy."
Viet Nam now ranks first in Southeast Asia and fifth in the world in abortions, according to statistics from the Viet Nam National Committee for Population and Family Planning. In fact, the number of abortions among the country's unmarried teenagers – 300,000 - was significantly higher than other countries near the top of the list for total abortions.
It was reported that Viet Nam sees between 1.2 and 1.6 million abortions each year, and juveniles had 40 percent of the total abortions last year.
The actual number of juvenile abortions may be higher because many teenagers come to private clinics in order to keep their pregnancies a secret.
Adolescent abortions could cause serious physical and psychological harm to young women's health, said Doan Thi Lan Phuong, a senior midwife at the National Hospital of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
"After becoming aware of their pregnancies, teenagers are afraid of being scolded by parents and gossiped about by friends," Phuong told the Radio Voice of Viet Nam's Traffic Channel. "Therefore, they tend to seek private health facilities for termination in order to hide their unwanted pregnancy."
"Having an abortion creates an increased risk of internal bleeding, uterine perforation and many other serious post-abortion complications, which can have long-term effects on women's health," Phuong added.
Phuong said the potential risk of secondary infertility among women who had had at least one abortion was three to four times higher than other women.
"Abortion seems just like a simple trick, but its complications are truly immeasurable," Phuong said.
Heavy on theory, insufficient in practical skills
Sexual and reproductive health education for young people in Viet Nam has been incorporated into other subjects such as biology, or delivered to students through extracurricular activities.
That style of education may make it difficult for youth to practically apply the information to their lives, Nguyen Thu Giang, vice president of the Institute for Development and Community Health, told the Kinh Te Do Thi newspaper.
"Viet Nam does have education programmes on sexual relations and reproductive health for students, but they are mainly theoretical and lack practical knowledge in conformity with the adolescent development age," Giang said. "Those programmes remain generic. Few of them mention the sensitive elements of culture, gender and sex safety."
Facts also have shown that reproductive health care programmes in Viet Nam focus on sexuality, conception, contraception, pregnancy symptoms and sexually transmitted diseases, but do not provide students with the necessary practical skills, behavior and ways to solve problems in each particular situation.
"I have attended many training courses on reproductive health, but I still do not know how to respond to the ‘requirements' of my boyfriend," said a student of the Social Labour University, Dam Phuong Nhung.
According to Le Thi Quy, director of the Institute for Gender and Development, the cause of adolescent pregnancy stems from cultural acceptance of premarital sex among youth.
"They ignored everything rather than weighing the pros and cons of having sex before marriage," Quy said. — VNS