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Draft law tightens rules on abortions

Update: June, 19/2013 - 09:38

HA NOI (VNS)— Stricter regulations on abortion will be introduced to limit the number of procedures, protect women's health and maintain a balanced gender ratio at birth.

Deputy director of the General Office for Population and Family Planning Nguyen Van Tan said strengthening regulations on abortion was an urgent issue as abortion in the country, particularly among adolescents, had reached alarming levels.

In addition, some abortions were conducted due to gender selection, as many families prefer sons to daughters, he said.

The country's sex ratio at birth at present is 113 boys/ 100 girls whereas the balanced ratio should be around 104 boys/ 100 girls.

The draft Law on Population is expected to be submitted to the National Assembly next year to replace the Ordinance on Population issued 10 years ago.

Under the law, a woman having an abortion must follow set procedures. Specifically, she must sign a pledge with agreement from her husband or parents. She must have a paraclinical diagnosis on her foetus' condition and receive consultancy before the abortion to ensure both mother and child's health.

The law also outlines detailed conditions for when an abortion is permissable. For example, the abortion must only be conducted if it will save the woman's life from a potentially deadly birth, if the foetus is a product of rape, if the foetus is likely to suffer from congenital malformations or if the woman is too young and unable to afford the costs of raising her child.

Another new regulation prescribes that only provincial hospitals have the right to conduct abortions on foetuses which are over three-months-old, while medical clinics will conduct abortions on foetuses aged under six weeks.

"Besides laws, schools play an important role in reducing the number of abortions," said Tan.

Ministry of Health statistics showed more than 80 per cent of adolescents did not use contraception and often have abortions when foetuses are over 18-weeks-old.

Curriculae in schools should include sex education and family planning to equip students with the necessary knowledge to prevent accidental conception, he said.

Formerly, the Ordinance on Population regulated that women had rights to an abortion based on their preferrence. The regulation aimed to respect women's rights, however it seemed to provoke a rise in uncontrolled abortions, said Tan.

Consequently, the country currently conducts between 1.2 to 1.6 million abortions each year. Around 20 per cent of the women undergoing the procedure are adolescents, according to incomplete statistics from the Viet Nam Family Planning Association.

The statistics ranked Viet Nam first among Southeast Asian countries for the number of yearly abortions and fifth worldwide, said the Ministry of Health.

"The primary reason for the issue is that women, especially adolescents and those living in remote rural areas, do not have easy access to contraceptive measures," said Tan.— VNS

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