Expand Criteria for Pre-Abortion Counselling

I refer to the article “Number of abortions in Singapore fell in last six years” by Andrea Ong (13 Nov 2013).

I was very heartened to read about the general decline in total number of abortions in Singapore, especially among teenagers.

The report states that around four per cent of women had a change of heart after receiving pre-abortion counselling and chose not to go through with the abortion. Such a figure, no matter how small, represents the many brave decisions that women made to save precious lives.

For this reason alone, it would be beneficial to make it mandatory for every single woman seeking abortion in Singapore to undergo pre-abortion counselling.

Currently, foreigners, rape victims or Singaporeans with three or more children, and those who have not passed the PSLE are excluded from this requirement.

While I applaud our government’s efforts to establish safeguards from those who wish to take advantage of our liberal abortion laws, I hope the Ministry of Health would consider making pre-abortion counselling available to all those presently excluded from the criteria.

Pregnant women seeking an abortion usually face great pressure from external sources, such as socio-economic factors. The decision to keep a child or abort one should never be made lightly, and these vulnerable women deserve the same standard of care, and should be made aware of all the alternatives to abortion.

I strongly support the Ministry of Health’s initiative to review the Termination of Pregnancy Act. A suggestion for the review committee to take into consideration would be to shorten the time limits for abortions as the current cap at 24 weeks is too high.

With increased medical information about foetal responses to pain starting from as early as eight weeks to 13 1/2 weeks gestation at the latest, depending on the development of the foetus’ nervous system, we should consider amending our abortion laws to match the new heights set by our scientific discoveries and medical capabilities.

The law undoubtedly plays a large role in shaping the attitudes, practices and expectations of society. Accordingly, our abortion laws should send a message that couples should not use abortion as a form of birth control. This change will not only encourage the use of responsible contraception but also go towards reducing the high levels of promiscuity among our youth.

An edited version of this article was published in the Straits Times Forum Page (14 November 2013).

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6 Responses to Expand Criteria for Pre-Abortion Counselling

  1. dizil2me says:

    Hi, I would like to link up with your group. How can I reach you via email.

    Looking forward to your reply.

    Susie Wee
    Family Life Society
    Tel: 64880278 Ext 283

  2. Kenny says:

    “our abortion laws should send a message that couples should not use abortion as a form of birth control” – Sorry I disagree.

    The law shouldn’t be used to support the ideologies of the policy makers. Just because you think abortion is wrong doesn’t mean responsible adults, who are no less intelligent or mature than you, should be forced to conform to the same set of beliefs as you. People have their own set of beliefs, and laws set in a democratic society should follow what the majority think is right, not what people on top think is right. Who are they to dictate among themselves, what is right or wrong. Who are they to think they know better, that what is right or wrong.

    Cost benefit analysis? About which laws best benefit society? Yeah, benefit : ‘reducing the high levels of promiscuity’, ‘mandatory for every single woman seeking abortion in Singapore to undergo pre-abortion counselling’. Everyone should conform to the high noble values of a virtuous man who doesn’t sleep around, stay a virgin till marriage, abstain from alcohol and abortion. Virtuous yeah, great. But we’re a democracy. Values should not be dictated by the virtuous, but by the masses. We need a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” – Abraham Lincoln. Not a government that dictates what it thinks is best for the people, but a government that serves the people. Because the people up there do not know what’s best for us. We know what’s best for ourselves. We’re not stupid. We’re commoners who know better than the people on top what’s really important and what’s not.

    We don’t need the government to tell us killing is wrong, because the masses know that killing is wrong. We hate taxes on a personal level, but as a society on the whole, inside each and every one of us, we know that taxes are necessary and it’ll be the people who will stand up themselves and choose to implement tax laws for our society. That is what a democracy is – that the collective wisdom of the people is far greater and stronger than any individual, group or organization.

    • SingaporeLDW says:

      Hi Kenny,
      Thank you for leaving a comment.

      Firstly, I think it is a moot point that the law is used to support the ideologies of the policy makers. We are a democracy, as you have rightly pointed out, and thus we have the freedom to vote for policy makers who hold the same ideologies and beliefs as us. The ‘people on the top’ are the same people we elected to be our representatives so it is perfectly logical that they are the ones who draft and pass legislation in our country. Of course, this is not to say the government’s decisions are always right, but you cannot argue that they lack the decision-making mandate.

      Secondly, you argue that ordinary people know what is best for society. I disagree to a certain extent because sometimes the people who are in certain positions of power and responsibility are able to have a broader view of the working of society and take the myriad of perspectives and interests into account when formulating policy, e.g. healthcare regulations and foreign policy. Just because they have authority over you does not always mean they are acting against your best interests.

      You also seem confused because on one hand, you say that morality is subjective, but on the other hand, you claim we can distinguish between what is right and wrong. Additionally, you make the point that everyone has their own set of beliefs but then you go on to say I should not force everyone to conform to my views.

      I do not think your analogy of taxes is a useful one. Taxes in Singapore are not objectively moral or immoral; it is a method of ensuring the continuance of beneficial government services that the private sector cannot provide. Compared to abortion, where innocent lives are at stake, I would argue that the impact of the laws we as a country legislate in this matter is incredibly far-reaching and devastating. The problem is not with the laws, but the fact that not everyone agrees with the scientific fact that babies in the womb are human nor that they should be accorded legal personhood.

      Thirdly, you seem to be very offended about the idea that men should be held to a certain standard of morality. I am assuming you are male and that you are mainly concerned about abortion because it has an impact on your ‘sexuality’ (in the same vein Aldous Huxley declared “we objected to morality, because it interfered with our sexual freedom”). I will admit that banning abortion will have a direct impact on promiscuous people but your argument is irrelevant when the discussion is on the shortening of time limits and introducing mandatory pre-abortion counselling.

      The solution to end abortion requires the participation of both men and women. It is not solely a women’s problem but a human problem. If we as a society work together to make our world a more child-friendly and family-friendly place, by legislating laws that will protect vulnerable women from the dangers of late term abortions, and instituting social welfare programmes that will greatly help women in need, abortion levels would be reduced and soon women will no longer have any need for abortion.

      Of course, this requires sacrifice on everyone’s part, but in the grand scheme of things, it will be worth it even just to save one life. As the Talmud says, whoever saves one life saves the world entire.

  3. Kenny says:

    I understand what you are fighting for. I can also understand the immorality and cruelty behind abortion. Justifying and legalizing the killing of a 24 week old fetus in a mother’s womb is plain cruel and wrong. I don’t disagree with most of what you are trying to do. It’s that there are some things you mentioned in the article that I am deeply concerned with.

    “The law undoubtedly … …promiscuity among our youth.” The last paragraph of your article has a disturbing influence on your readers because of the messages and assumptions it is sending across, don’t you think so? You wrote: “the law undoubtedly plays a large role in shaping the attitudes, practices and expectations of society”. That means the government should decide what the people should or should not do. They should set standards, rules and expectations they feel is best for the people. They decide what people should feel and think. They should use laws and policies (and maybe the media too) to send a message to the public and to spread ideologies and propaganda, to spread virtues they think are right and values people should conform to. You see where I am going?

    When we start accepting that the government and the law is largely responsible for shaping the attitudes and expectations of society, we’re subconsciously deconstructing the values of democracy, of free expression and will. We forget that a society shouldn’t be led by individuals or by organizations, but by the masses and the voices of our people. We let the few people on top have the final say and dictate what is moral and what is not. The top thought homosexuality is wrong so they implemented 377A. Do you think they have the right to coerce people into subscribing to the same mindset they have? That homosexuality is indeed wrong and people born that way should be discriminated and punished?

    If you convinced your reader into believing that ultimately, the law “undoubtedly plays a large role in shaping the attitudes, practices and expectations of society”, then you would’ve also convinced them to subconsciously destroy the true values of a democracy.

    • N.W. Clerk says:

      Hi Kenny,

      Please correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that you are personally against late term abortions. In fact you describe “the killing of a 24 week old fetus in a mother’s womb” as “plain cruel and wrong”. However you seem have reservations about legislating shorter time limits for abortions because to do so would be to force others to “conform to the same set of beliefs” that you hold.

      I would like to propose to you that no law is neutral and in fact every law imposes some substantive values on those who may not necessarily wholeheartedly subscribe to those values. Even something seemingly neutral like tax laws are determined by concerns of equity (fairness) and equality. These concerns will determine how progressive or regressive a nation’s tax laws are.

      We miss the substantive values behind laws that legalise abortions if we focus exclusively on the permissive role of these laws. A law that legalises abortions allows a mother-to-be, who has decided that her circumstances require her to abort her child, to bring her decision to fruition legally. It is undoubtedly true that her decision in no way affects another similarly situated woman who by virtue of her upbringing and her moral and religious values chooses to bear the child to term. A permissive law does not compel anyone to have an abortion. Viewed in this light it seems neutral. Pregnant women are allowed to make their own decisions and then those who decide to terminate their pregnancy are permitted to do so legally and safely.

      However laws that legalise abortion also have an expressive function. For example, they express the value that society places on foetal life and the role that we expect families and the society at large to play in supporting mothers-to-be. A law that permits abortion up to 24 months of pregnancy conveys the idea that foetal life is cheap. It also downplays the responsibility that families and society at large owe to pregnant women. Worse still, with scientific evidence showing that foetal response to pain starts “from as early as eight weeks to 13 ½ weeks gestation at the latest”, our current laws appear to valorise individual choice even over the widely accepted prohibition against cruelty. These values shape the society that we live in.

      Therefore, abortion laws are not neutral. They convey values that are imposed on society at large. I personally do not accept the values that our abortion laws currently convey. I believe that I have the responsibility to petition our lawmakers to consider making changes to these laws. I fully support the author’s proposal to shorten time limits for abortion and introduce mandatory pre-abortion counselling. These are steps in the right direction.

      I hope to hear your thoughts Kenny.

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