One man in Vietnam, Tống Phước Phúc, has saved over one hundred babies from abortion by opening an orphanage looking after unwanted children.
Almost twenty years ago, as his wife lay recuperating after a difficult birth, Tống noticed many pregnant women going into the delivery room but always leaving alone.
“I was wondering, where are the babies? Then I realized they had abortions,” he told documentary Tough Love: Challenging Vietnam’s abortion rate, one baby at a time.
Heartbroken at the reality taking place before his very eyes, Tống asked for the bodies of all the aborted babies so he could give them a proper burial.
He used his savings, as a former construction worker, to buy land atop a mountain in Hon Thom, located in Nha Trang of central Vietnam. Tống chose this peaceful location to lay these babies to rest.
Tống, who is now over 60, and a team of volunteers have buried over 16,000 aborted babies since 2001.
The sight of over 15,000 tiny plots dotting the shady hillside, many marked with bright red, pink and yellow artificial roses has already persuaded some pregnant women not to undergo an abortion.
Nhung Nguyen is one such woman. Sitting beside her daughter she revealed to the Tough Love documentary: “If I hadn’t come here, I would have had an abortion, too.”
She added: “Uncle Phuc (Tống) came to see me, persuaded me not to have an abortion, and promised to help.”
Tống then decided that as well as being a gravedigger, he could also be a lifesaver for unborn babies.
He realised one way he could help people like Nguyen was to set up an orphanage where he could take care of unwanted babies or babies whose mothers feel unable to look after them.
Nguyen, who cannot support her daughter herself, often visits her at the orphanage.
Volunteers teach children of kindergarten age while older ones are all sent to school.
“I’m getting more and more help,” says Tống. “Some people help me with actions, others bring things, rice and salt, for example. Others give money for educating and sheltering the children, to allow me to continue my work.”
He adds, “I put my heart and soul into this” before revealing the orphanage has cared for over 100 children with more than 50 of those being reunited with their birth mothers.
Tống recalls in another documentary, “In 2004, there were about 30 babies taken to this cemetery to be buried each day. Now, there are days that no babies are taken to this place. I am very happy about that.”
40 percent of all pregnancies in Vietnam end in abortion according to a study by doctors at Hanoi’s Central Obstetrics Hospital revealed, giving it one of the highest abortion rates in the world.
Although sex-selective abortion is illegal in Vietnam male-to-female birth ratios are as high as 150 to 100 in some provinces and 120 to 100 in the capital city of Hanoi. A ratio of roughly 105 male births for every 100 female ones is generally seen as natural and normal.
A recent study conducted into repeat abortions in the country found the odds of a repeat abortion were greater among women with at least two daughters rather than among those with only one (odds ratio, 2.9). In 2015, Vietnamese television aired an interview with a woman who selectively aborted 18 girl babies trying to give birth to a son.