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Teenagers Account for 70% of Vietnam's 'Secret Abortions'

A new survey conducted by Vietnam’s General Statistics Office reveals that 70% of the country’s "secret abortions" involve teenagers aged 13 to 19.

During a meeting on June 29, Nguyen Thi Hoai Duc, head of Vietnam’s Institute for Reproductive and Family Health, gave a talk about the nation’s rates of abortion and teen pregnancy, reports VnExpress. Though the term "secret abortion" is not clearly defined, Vietnam's government statistics tend to only account for abortions performed in public health facilities; those which take place in private clinics typically go uncounted in official data.

“Many girls visit clinics three of four times to have abortions, even though they are provided with information about pregnancy prevention as well as the risks of abortion,” the news outlet quoted Duc as saying.

The survey found that 36% of Vietnamese adolescents between the ages of 14 and 17 have had sex, while at least 8.4% of young women aged 15 to 24 have had at least one abortion.

According to the Health Advisory Center under the National Hospital of Obstetrics and Gynecology, young girls seeking abortions are admitted to the hospital everyday. These young women often arrive more than 12 weeks into their pregnancy, making the abortion procedure more invasive and harmful to their reproductive health.

“After realizing they are pregnant, many students buy drugs to abort the pregnancy without consulting a doctor, and that can have serious consequences,” Duc said.

She also elaborated on the causes of this abortion epidemic, attributing the high rates of teen pregnancy and abortion to both families' and schools' reluctance to provide sex education to Vietnamese teens. At Hanoi's Cat Linh High School, principal Tran Quoc Hai expressed the discomfort his teachers often feel when giving sex education lessons to students.

“In my school, some teachers responsible for sex education are not married, so how can they provide detailed information to students,” VnExpress quoted the principal as saying. “Just showing images of human bodies to children makes them shy.”

Given that 40% of pregnancies in Vietnam end in abortion, Vietnamese health officials recognize the need for improved sex education to ensure that teenagers are properly informed but still struggle to overcome the discomfort of parents and educators in presenting this information to young students.

[Photo via Thanh Nien]

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