Vietnam doctor 'alarmed' at number of abortions of baby girls in Year of the Dragon

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A leading obstetrician in Hanoi has said she is alarmed at the number of women seeking abortions this year just because they were carrying girl babies.

Nguyen Thi Hong Minh, director of the National Obstetrics and Gynaecology Hospital's reproductive health consultation center, said many women use work and financial problems as an excuse, but is skeptical.

Many Vietnamese believe that sons carry on families' material as well as spiritual lineage while daughters become outsiders once they marry into another family.

Minh, without providing a figure for the number of abortions at the hospital this year, said: "I am sure that abortions due to gender is at an alarmingly high rate."

Most of the abortions were of female embryos of between 14 and 22 weeks, she pointed out.

Vietnam does not have a law against abortions, but abortions due to gender are illegal.

Minh said women who were aware of the regulation would ask for an abortion either claiming they were busy working or studying, or poor and so could not afford another child.

Doctors had no choice but to do their bidding.

But they refused to perform abortions when women told them it was because of the baby's sex.

Minh said most women in this "honest" group were housewives or from rural areas. Doctors would try to persuade them to have the baby instead.

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But the refusal to perform abortions did not seem too effective since the women would simply go to a different doctor or hospital and lie about the reason. 

"The second time they are served. So we unintentionally provide abortions to enable gender selection."

Her hospital trained its staff to recognize abortions related to the baby's sex, and to turn down the request.

Doctors were also trained to counsel the women, but this did not always prove successful.

She herself had once advised a teacher to keep her 16-week girl baby, saying an embryo was a young life and deserved its mother's protection.

"She cried, and I thought she would stop seeking [an abortion]. But a week later a colleague told me she got it done at another hospital."

In many cases women who were sent away went to private clinics, which were only allowed to abort foetuses of seven weeks or less.

Vietnam's sex ratio at birth -- or the number of boy babies to girls -- worsened from 109.8 in 2006 to 112.3 in the first quarter of this year, the Year of the Dragon, which is considered a good year to have a son in East Asia.

Officials expect it to soar to 113.5 by the end of the year, causing a shortfall of 2.3-4.3 million women by 2050, as a result of which many men will have to delay their marriage or not be able to find a wife at all, and many women will suffer rape, human trafficking, and other abuses.

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