235 PICS

Abortion in Vietnam - Higest abortion rate in the world - "I'm sorry child"

Vietnam has the highest abortion rate in the world. Babies are aborted at any month during development. The interesting thing is that entire cemeteries are built for the babies. People travel to them to ask forgiveness from the dead babies.

Xin loi con - I'm sorry child

A man stands alone in a cemetery weeping over a small, shallow grave filled with sand. Beneath the sand lays twin 7-month-developed fetus boys. The man draws a line down the middle with his finger and shakes his head in silence.

"This is not good," he says in Vietnamese over and over. "They were so handsome. They had fingers and hair. They were so handsome."

According to studies published in 1999, Vietnam had the highest abortion rate in the world with 83 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44. This number represents public-sector abortions only. The total abortion rate indicates that the average woman would have 2.5 abortions during her lifetime if the rate were to remain at this level.

"Xin loi con" translates into "I'm sorry child". The title is taken from messages written all over fetus cemeteries saying, "Your parents apologize child". There are 10 of these fetus cemeteries throughout Vietnam mostly run by Franciscan sects of the Catholic church. Fetuses are collected from hospitals and private clinics. In some cemeteries the caretakers will pour alcohol on the 2- to 3-month-developed fetuses to insure that they burn completely in the makeshift crematory. While others have enough land space to bury the babies whole.

Vietnamese people migrate from all over the country to come and pray to the dead babies. They burn paper money and paper clothes to offer up to the babies. They believe the dead babies have angry spirits for not being born. Some parents even bring small milk boxes to open and leave on the grave sites. One milk box read in English, "Nurturing the talent of our future."

The main problem is there is no sexual education. It is an embarrassing topic that does not want to be brought up in households. The other issue is deep-seeded cultural roots. In the countryside, when a woman becomes pregnant and she is not married, they are often kicked out of the homes. The often quick solution becomes a $30 abortion. They are legal in Vietnam. Babies are aborted throughout every trimester, often times between 7-9 months in development.

Some people attempt to detour women from having abortions by offering halfway houses for them to live until they give birth. Here some women learn to become mothers. But most don't even want to look at their child after birth, let alone name them. The mothers often leave the newborns with churches and return to their old lives in the countryside as if nothing had ever happened.

In 2008, officials proposed to return to a two-child only law that was abandoned in 2003. A spike in the county's population caused panic within the communist nation that has twice the population density of China. The law, which is expected to pass, will surely increase the abortion rate.

There is one children's hospital for all of southern Vietnam. The neonatal unit overflows on a regular basis. Nurses place the babies on the floors of the hallways and bathrooms. They write the baby's family name on masking tape and stick it to their foreheads. The tape often falls off and babies end up being switched. A new father showed up early to the hospital one day and when the doctors asked him the reason, he said he wanted the pick of the best looking baby.

Now, 10 years after the abortion rate study was published, there are no new numbers. Nothing to prove or disprove Vietnam's global ranking. But the problem is still real. With the majority of Vietnam's population around the age of 35, some officials are worried that if population growth is stunted too much, there will not be a viable work force in the years to come.

I have been living in Vietnam for the past 8 months learning the language and culture. I have investigated this project from Ho Chi Minh City to the central highlands. I have slept on the floor next to 8 pregnant mothers and I have had disturbing dreams after photographing chopped up fetuses. But to really understand the culture you have to live in it. I will continue to learn and photograph this emerging country and the important issue of population control.

Rank: 72



I think this is a very touching and illuminating story about the history and struggle of abortion in Vietnam. Good luck!


Best of luck, Kevin. I know you'd produce some amazing imagery with that kind of funding.



Wow, I wouldn't have guessed that about Vietnam. Chinese influence? Anyway, voting for you. Return the favor if you like. My project is to document political upheaval and rights abuses in Zimbabwe.


That's so crazy Kev! I didn't know any of these issues here where we live. That's really cool that you are trying to really understand and learn. Please continue to pass on the knowledge so I don't have to sleep in the floor with pregnant ladies...


Kevin, you will knock everyone's socks off. I am pulling for you!!! Also, I checked out your project on mental health in Vietnam, a cause close to my heart (and my professional training). Stunning. Keep up the wonderful work!!! -Stacie Eder McLean


good luck kevin. it's something you were quite passionate about when we met last year.
I know from working with babies born at 23 weeks and seeing how developed they are ( they cry, they fidget, they have fingernails and toenails), it must be awful to go through a last trimester abortion.


What a moving and touching piece that I have yet to read or see. This story desearves to be told.


What a shame to some Vietnamese that still dont know about this. Go for the story, the world should know about this.


Kevin, Even your synopsis makes me cry. I can't imagine what you could do through photos to bring this story to light. Using your talents for the betterment of our world is a noble calling. Good for you!


Good luck. I voted for your dream. I believe in Pay it Forward, the Golden Rule, and affirming the worth of people and their dreams. I am pro life. Your dream is a story that must be told.


interesting idea. I voted for ya, check out mine and leave a comment or vote too if you like it, good luck!


I voted for Kevin German because he's an incredibly talented photographer and even more amazing storyteller. This could be an amazing photo documentary project. Good luck, Kevin!


I heard about this project idea through Andrew Owen. I think it's a great project idea. It is not over-ambitious and general. Do you have any images online? My email is below. Good luck on the votes!
[email protected]


Good luck dork!


Kevin, Your compassion is compelling Best of luck! Gma


Go Kevin Go ! Good luck man :-)


Good luck, Kevin!!

You have my PIC. Please stop by and check out my idea... leave a comment and a PIC if you'd like.

I'm a photographer trying to change the world... starting with my community!

Take care!


I voted for you and hope you get your story!! You are an amazing person and wish you the best of luck! Thought of you the other day and hoping all your dreams are coming true!!! Miss you and hope to see you before our 20 year!!! Hugs!! KC


Kevin is a talented Documentary Photographer with incredible passion for his work. This is story that many in Vietnam do not even know about because it's a quite topic. It must be heard! Good luck to ya! I hope you get to tell your story.


Good Luck, KG man.


All the best:)


Kev... ever since you were a small child you have wanted to save the world... I've always commended you for that and I know you will do it!

Love, Mom


I can't wait to see the finished project Kevin.


Kevin, this is impressive! I am happy to cast my vote for you, well done. What a topic... one I feel is so important to raise awareness about.


You've got my vote!



Wow...very touching. Can't wait to see the finished project. Good luck


Hey German! Good luck! This story is haunting; it keeps creeping up in my mind as I'm doing dishes, driving, going about life. I really hope you are able to finish this; I can't wait to see the final product.


I just voted! Your photos are amazing and I think everything that you are doing is inspiring and you definitely deserve to win. Good luck Kevin!




Got my vote bro. DO IT!!!


I like your idea, check out mine and vote for me if you like it. Its about poverty and society in 3rd world countries and how they are controlled, devastated by their governments and western industrialized nations.


Good luck.. Cheers..

j r..


I hope your work brings awareness to the need for sex education and contributes significantly to changing peoples´attitudes about single mothers.