As Vietnam hits a record level of abortions, the Church leads the fight to defend life
by Paul N. Hung
The country has the fifth highest level of abortion in the world, the highest in Southeast Asia. More than 300,000 cases per year involve women and teenagers between 15 and 19 years. Many private and illegal abortion clinics have popped up with serious consequences for the health of young people. Church groups and movements are at work to support life, in the Diocese of Bắc Ninh, for example.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – The Vietnamese Catholic Church has launched a number of initiatives to defend of life and counter the rising number of abortions – often performed secretly to the detriment of young people and teenagers.

In Bắc Ninh, a suffragan diocese of the Archdiocese of Hanoi in the north of the country, Caritas is promoting courses attended by at least 65 young men and women who will join the many volunteers already involved in six parish centres set up by the Church to help pregnant women bring their pregnancies to term.

The official number of abortions is cause for alarm. Since 1989, when the government legalised it, the number of cases has grown exponentially. Today Vietnam is the first country in South-East Asia and the fifth in the world in terms of abortion.

Each year, more than 300,000 young women and teenagers between 15 and 19 resort to abortion. Many of them are high school and university students (between 60 and 70 per cent).

In the capital Hanoi, the number is even higher, and many young women have an abortion several times, as if it were a contraceptive method.

As many young people have sex before marriage, they often get pregnant in school. For others, there is also violence and abuse.

It "breaks my heart to see abortion clinics spring up around the city,” a social worker in Hanoi told AsiaNews. “Unmarried young women and teenagers only want to get rid of the problem and go to these places after they get pregnant.”

According to psychologists, the number of abortions among young people "is steadily rising," often accompanied by feelings of "shame and fear."

In many cases, young women and girls turn to private or illegal clinics, where sanitary conditions and medical procedures are substandard and can cause damage to women’s health.

In view of the emergency, pro-life groups are networking to stop abortion. The most active are Catholic movements and diocesan groups, like the one set up in Bắc Ninh.

At least every three months, participants gather and pray, hear mass, and share experiences and problems. Caritas also sponsors meetings to raise awareness.

Many non-Catholics appreciate this work, saying that they are "impressed" by the spirit of self-sacrifice and charity shown by Church volunteers, often hampered by the authorities.

"Although the groups face obstacles and difficulties from local authorities,” said a Catholic who asked for his name to be withheld, “the movement to defend life in the diocese of Bắc Ninh is welcomed and, step by step, has earned people’s trust."

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