Doctors under pressure as abortion demand goes up
15 March, 2010
Reproduced with permission
The psychological trauma faced by doctors could
emerge as an important issue with the rapidly increasing number of people
seeking to have abortions.
Abortions are the stuff of daily life for Dr. Nguyen Thi Hong Minh,
director of the Central Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital in Hanoi.
But there are times she has to confront her "worst fears", having to
abort fetuses that are 20-22 weeks old, when their bodies are fully formed.
"I always feel a sharp pain along my back when I have to treat those
The nutrition between the mother and baby is cut and the fetus dies in
the womb in most cases, she said.
"But some fetuses are delivered so quickly and they manage to take
another breath before they're gone. There's no way to save them as they
weigh only 400 grams or so.
"As a woman, I am really hurt. Other children are born with so much care
and love. But these 20 to 22 week old babies, already little dolls and they
have to die."
And there are times Minh has to work with four to five such cases a day.
Vietnam does not ban abortions. Doctors provide advice, but generally do
what the mothers want.
Minh said many doctors in her situation chose to visit pagodas
frequently, trying to find some peace.
The psychological trauma faced by doctors could emerge as an important
issue with the rapidly increasing number of people seeking to have
The hospital receives more than 40 abortion cases every day, many of them
students and teenagers.
Within 10 minutes on Tuesday morning, the birth-control center at the
hospital had held consultations with 27 people who wanted to end their
pregnancies, and two of them had quite advanced pregnancies.
"We resumed work on February 22 (after Tet break) and have
received more than 45 cases every day, 1.5 times the normal," Minh was
quoted by local newswire Vietnamnet as saying Thursday (March 4).
The number excludes around 20 cases that the center has to refuse every
day as there's not enough space or doctors, Minh said.
While there was no speculation that the increase in cases had to with the
reluctance of many women to give birth to girls in the Year of the Tiger,
there were several news reports before the Lunar New Festival that women
were demanding that doctors deliver their babies before the year was up.
A 17-year-old 11th grader was the youngest resident wanting an
abortion since the center resumed services, according to hospital records.
She was in the 10th week of pregnancy and her parents accompanied her as
Some doctors at the center said they were still haunted by one abortion
they had to do for a girl just 14 or 15 years old who was already half way
to becoming a mother.
A clinic nearby has been treating six to seven abortion cases every day
in the last couple of weeks, instead of between zero and one or two earlier.
The clinic owner spoke of a 17-year-old student who came in for an
abortion with many of her friends.
"It seemed that the shame of being pregnant as a teenager no longer
existed in those students. They were cheerful as though they were on a
picnic," she told Vietnamnet.
The newswire did not mention the names of the clinic and its owner.
Students have accounted for 20-30 percent of the abortion cases in the
area in recent years, according to doctors' notes.
Experts say youngsters feel free to have unprotected sex when they engage
in sexual relations with their lovers, and do not show sufficient awareness
of the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS.
There were 5,000 women seeking abortions in less than three months at the
Central Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital late last year. Many were college
students including some from medical schools and mothers who had given birth
a couple of times. They had very little knowledge of birth-control and the
risks involved in having an abortion.
Minh spoke with a mixture of anger and sadness: "They were students, so
they should have had some knowledge. But the way they protected themselves
was so bad. And that will severely affect their health right now and later."