Sex Education Should Not Promote A Culture of Experimentation

Should we be educating young people to have sex without values as a background? Should we depart from the previous emphasis on abstinence?

Presenting them with an array of ‘choice’ is itself a value that is being imposed on sex education – the value of choice and promoting choice. But there are often things other than choice to contend with and for young people to be aware of. In fact, encouraging young people even to reject abstinence, and to pursue other ‘choices’ does not adequately present the weight of making these choices.

Education cannot be treated purely factually, in the sense of presenting students with the maximum array of choices without considering the weight of these choices and what sort of stand one is going to advocate for in the curriculum.

If education was purely factual, there would be no problem for example, with letting students watch porn, just to see how sex occurs. I would go so far as to argue that sex is very much tied to the idea of romantic love. Popular songs constantly equate love with good sex, in fact. So when considering the idea of sex, many values related to love and relationships will inherently come to play, and these must be considered carefully.

By virtue of it being a massive school-wide sex education program, I would personally much rather err on the side of caution. A school-wide sex education program will always be different in scope and impact, from individual parenting. In scope and impact, it reaches a massive array of students from all backgrounds. I would err on the side of caution when even one life is at stake, due to its inherent worth, and much more so when many lives are at stake. Education after all, will form the culture we live in.

In countries where experimentation may be taught or encouraged, whether formally or not, without adequate emphasis on the weight of the choices made, this has often been linked to increases in teenage pregnancy, identity and image issues, bullying or blackmail of former sexual partners, and such. These statistics suggest that it may be better to err on the side of caution when choosing which values to impose. I do not wish to label them as conservative or liberal, as I believe, at least in its origins, liberalism went beyond seeing choice as the ultimate trump to all other values.

Parental perception: Some organizations have clearly taken the stand that the choices of students should be maximized. It may be worthwhile to listen also to parental perspectives, and do surveys on whether parents truly want their children to receive perceptions that contraception and experimentation are equally valid choices to abstinence.

It takes a village to raise a child. So I am not arguing that a sex education program is decisive and conclusive. In fact, much depends on whether this entire generation cares enough for the generation to come, to help form each individual physically, mentally, emotionally, and even morally and spiritually. Yet, one way in which we as the generation that has gone before can and must do this, is by giving voice to our views on sex education programs and carefully weighing each ideology that might present ourselves. Again, it is worth restating that opting to give students the widest array of choice is itself a choice.

Sex is not merely physical, but an emotional mental and some might argue, spiritual union. The value of abstinence is that it is certainly not to be confused with being a prude, but waiting until both parties are in all major respects, ready for commitment and responsibility.

It is extremely intimate and should not be treated or taught about lightly. To encourage people that they may try it out, not abstain, etc, fails to recognize the intimate ties and deep consequences that it creates. We must consider that a culture of experimentation and contraception may lead to deep emotional, physical, and mental ties that if broken off especially at such a formative age, may have serious consequences on students. Here, I am not speaking merely of an inability to concentrate on learning, but on the physical, emotional, mental and moral spiritual health of these students.

Also, these are people we are talking about, whom we will affect if we have sex with. Even if we can argue that we leave sexual relationships without being affected (which I disagree with anyway), we must always at least consider how our choices affect others. A culture of ‘experimentation’ could end up with unintended casualties. Better to err on the side of caution and teach our young people to abstain until they are ready for commitment and responsibility. Liberty is premised on an individual’s worth, and that should mean that each individual is of great worth and to be regarded with much care and desire for that person’s welfare.

These consequences extend even to the creation of new lives through conception. This is not the place to argue about when life begins, who defines that or even if there is such authority to define at all. I only wish to argue that even contraception, if presented as a perfectly valid choice, does not always work. A culture of experimentation, even with contraception, bears consequences like occasional unintended pregnancies. Again, the value of abstinence for students and young people, is that it encourages delayed gratification until a time when they are ready and able to handle commitment, responsibility, and consequences.

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Women Deserve Better

The behaviour of AWARE in recent years has caused me rethink my position on feminism. When I was younger, I naïvely thought all feminist groups were filled with courageous women (and men!) who were willing to stand up for the rights of women to ensure they were given equal rights and opportunities, for example, equal civil rights to own property and vote, and equal access to higher education. They lobbied the government to protect the interest of women, children and the family, and they spoke out whenever government policies were harmful or discriminatory.

However, groups like AWARE, seem to be modelled on a different kind of feminism. From their recent headlines in the newspaper, they seem to care more about promoting a liberal, comprehensive sex education in schools and eradicating any kind of talk on abortion time limits than they caring for women in our community.

On the contrary, a liberal, facts-based sex education would only encourage promiscuity among youth leading to higher rates of sexually transmitted infections, harmful sexual experimentation, and teenage pregnancies.

Without a strong values-based anchor, young men and women would not learn about the consequences that come with sexual intercourse – a special act of love and commitment that should take place with marriage, and instead be encouraged to view it as an fun activity with no strings attached.

Furthermore, a liberal sex education would serve to reinforce negative attitudes towards the value of women (and of life!) and  by normalising emergency contraception (morning-after pill) and abortion (a crime against humanity).

Likewise, AWARE’s attempt to stamp out all discussions on abortion time limits does not, in any way, help to advance the feminist cause. In fact, they are only helping to advance the scourge that is male chauvinism (Ben Sherman and #BroChoice anyone?) because, after all, men’s sex lives would be disrupted if abortion wasn’t readily available. A national catastrophe indeed!

There is such a thing as a pro-life feminist. Those two terms are not incompatible. In fact, it has a 200 year old history. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, forerunners of the feminist movement in the USA, saw abortion as a violation of basic feminist principles. Mary Wollstonecraft, acclaimed author of Vindication of the Rights of Women, also was anti-abortion.

They were against abortion because they believed would result in the oppression of women. They were against abortion because it was sign there was something wrong with society. They were against abortion because women deserve better.

If AWARE truly believes in the rights of women to make responsible choices, they should be the at the front lines educating women and men about the terrible physical and mental health consequences of abortion, and how they can prevent abortions, which disproportionately targets baby girls, from taking place.

They should be rallying the government, communities, and public and private institutions to move towards creating a safe, nurturing environment for all women so that expectant mothers would not feel trapped and have no other choice than to kill the baby in their womb.

If one of AWARE’s values is to ‘respect the individual and the choices she makes in life, and support her when needed’, I demand that AWARE speak up for me! A woman who believes abortion no matter what the circumstances is murder of an innocent child, a woman who believes my freedom of choice ends when another life is conceived in my womb, a woman who believes society should be pro-life because, frankly, women everywhere deserve better.

 

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Two Victims in Every Abortion

Two Victims in Every Abortion

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Value-Based Sex Education

The article “Young minds and bodies: Is ignorance bliss?” (13 August 2013) by Tan Jian Xiang and Catherine Smith suggests that sex education in Singapore schools should move from being values-based to facts-based in order to reduce the escalating rates of STIs and teenage pregnancies.

However, it is wrong to assume that more information and knowledge equates to wisdom and prudence. An individual student, armed with more information via a comprehensive sex education programme, would not automatically be able to make better life choices and enjoy healthier relationships.

The prevalence of STIs, teenage pregnancies, date rape, and abortion are all symptoms of our society’s failure to instill proper values in our children, and the proposed solution of throwing facts and figures at them will not do anything to change their perspectives or shape their behaviour.

A more holistic methodology is required. Schools should not only focus on the physiology of sex and procreation, but also educate students on the emotional and ethical aspects of sex. For example, instead of preaching safe sex to teenagers, we should teach them how important it is to respect members of the opposite sex and treat them with courtesy, kindness and dignity.

Instead of running through a list of the different types of contraceptives available, we should also explain to students that the sexual act is an expression of love and commitment that may result in the creation of a child, and it is not just a ‘fun activity’ that should be engaged in for leisure.

Instead of merely describing the clinical process of abortion, we should engage students on a deeper level and elucidate how the life of every person is precious, worthwhile, and intrinsically valuable.

A holistic curriculum would be beneficial because it will not only deal with the root problem of increasingly casual attitudes towards sex, but also provide students with a firm foundation to become responsible adults imbued with the wisdom, prudence and maturity to make the right life choices and build healthy, happy relationships.

Ultimately, without a more comprehensive understanding study of sex education in Singapore or an in-depth consultation with parents (who play an equally significant, complementary role in sex education), it will be hasty to adopt the suggestion of the authors and jettison the values-based approach in favour of a more facts-based one.

(An edited version of this article was published in TODAY which can be accessed here.)

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What an irony

What an irony

What an irony that a society confronted with plastic bags filled with the remains of aborted babies should be more concerned about the problem of recycling the plastic.

– Winifred Egan

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Abortion Statistics in Singapore

These numbers speak for themselves:

  • Total number of abortions performed in Singapore from 1970 to 2012: 610685
  • Since then, abortions have increased by up to 5.4 times.
  • Year with lowest number of abortions: 1970
  • Year with highest number of abortions: 1985 (in this year, 35% of all pregnancies in Singapore ended in abortion)

Year

Number of Abortions

1970

1970

1971

3407

1972

3806

1973

5252

1974

7175

1975

12,873

1976

15,496

1977

16,443

1978

17,246

1979

16,999

1980

18,219

1981

18,890

1982

19,110

1983

19,100

1984

22,190

1985

23,512

1986

23,035

1987

21,226

1988

20,135

1989

20,619

1990

18,669

1991

17,798

1992

17,073

1993

16,476

1994

15,690

1995

14,504

1996

14,365

1997

13,827

1998

13,838

1999

13,753

2000

13,754

2001

13,140

2002

12,749

2003

12,272

2004

12,070

2005

11,482

2006

12,032

2007

11,933

2008

12,222

2009

12,318

2010

12,082

2011

11,940

2012

10,624

 

Other Information:

  • Stop At Two Policy began in 1969 (1960s – 1970s)
  • Have Three or More Policy started in 1987 (1980s – present day)
  • 95% of abortions in Singapore are obtained for social reasons, 3.7% for medical reasons, 2% for failed contraception.

 

Sources: Singapore Ministry of Health & UN Statistics & NUH Review of Abortion

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A Tiny Heart

A Tiny Heart

Any woman who has felt a baby stir inside her [and] any man who has seen the tiny heart pulsing on an ultrasound screen, knows that abortion is about ending a life.

(Karen Kissane)

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Greatest Destroyer of Peace

Greatest Destroyer of Peace

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Of Consent and Choice

The article “Don’t Force Parenthood by Denying Abortion” by Ranjana Raghunathan, Jolene Tan and Vivienne Wee, containing their opinions on the never-ending abortion debate, was highly disturbing.

The writers are mistaken on two main fronts: (1) They believe that there will be a nation-wide catastrophe if access to abortion in Singapore is restricted in any way and feel outraged by attempts to justify the shortening of time limits or instituting parental controls. (2) They seem aggrieved by the “judgmental and biased” way we teaches sex education in our schools, especially because abstinence is promoted as the most effective way of birth control, and strongly feel that schools should not “falsely (project) human identity” on a baby in the womb.

(1) Restricting Abortion Time Limits

Raghunathan, Tan and Wee contend that restricting access to abortion, for example by shortening the time limits as to when an abortion can be carried out legally, will aggravate the situation by forcing women to go underground. First, the writers assume than Singaporean women are so uneducated that they can remain unaware of their pregnancy until the second or third trimester. This idea is absurd. Second, the vast majority of women would rather go through a safe pregnancy than resort to an unclean, sub-par abortion provider where their lives would be put at risk. The tiresome argument of the high numbers of backstreet abortions is a myth that has already been debunked. Moreover, the fatality rate of legal abortions is higher than most pro-choice advocated would like to admit – as said by the authors themselves, it is an invasive and dangerous procedure that puts the mother’s life at risk.

The writers are also overly optimistic to think that educated couples would natural prefer contraception to abortion. Both married and unmarried couples frequently choose to engage in unprotected sex even though they are informed and aware of available birth control methods. (Logic and reason are not commodities easily found in large quantities in the throes of passion.) The truth is that when abortion is made illegal or at least restricted so that abortion-on-demand is not accepted as the norm, abortion rates plummet. It is not because pregnant mothers go overseas to obtain an abortion (they are a tiny minority), but rather because laws play a large role in shaping the habits, practices and expectations of society. Less liberal abortion laws will send a message that families and couples cannot use abortion as a form of birth control, encourage the use of responsible contraception and go towards reducing male and female promiscuity among youth.

On the point about restraining sexual behaviour which the authors take so much umbrage with, if liberals have been so successful in urging people to curb their carbon footprint to save a few trees, there is no doubt they can achieve equal success in encouraging men and women to curb our reckless sexual habits to save a few human babies. It may be a hard pill to swallow these days with the media and popular culture selling us the idea that everyone can have sex without strings attached, but it is the hard-hitting reality that we must take personally responsibility for our actions, especially when our actions produce an independent new human being.

Liberal logic trees vs abortion

The liberal abortion laws enacted in Singapore in 1969, and expanded by subsequent amendment in 1974, are no longer justified. As Prof Tan Seow Hon and many others like IonSG have commented, the Minister of Health at the time, Mr. Chua Sian Chin, clearly had two objectives in mind when arguing for more liberal abortion laws: (1) Eugenics, and (2) Population control. These are not defensible reasons for abortion; humans have no locus standi to select which baby gets to live and die based on race, traits, or any disabilities he or she has, nor should humans play a numbers game and advocate the killing of babies so as to bring that society’s birthrate under control. Such views are completely unacceptable in the civilised world today and should be eradicated.

Despite protestations from Members of Parliament with a conscience, especially those who believed in the sanctity of human life, the bill was passed and Singapore has not looked back since. It is foolish to take the view that the (objectionable) reasons given in support of abortion by our elected representatives in 1969 and 1974 still apply wholesale in today’s social context. With all the wonders of science and technology including 3D and 4D ultrasound,  greater medical knowledge about foetal pain, and the psychological trauma and depression suffered by women who have undergone abortions, we should not live in ignorance like our ancestors in the Middle Ages but instead consider reviewing these abortion laws again.

Raghunathan, Tan and Wee then turn to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, pointing out that it categorises the denial of abortion and post-abortion services as torture. But we must also bear in mind that such a report directly contradict the definition of ‘child’ per Article 1 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) as any human being below the age of 18. This allows room for interpretation among member states but clearly presents a stronger argument for the protection of the lives of foetuses than the argument for killing them.

For the purposes of the present Convention, a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier. (Article 1, UNCRC)

In addition, the UNCRC argues for the safeguarding of the child before as well as after birth, implying that babies in the womb are not a clump of cells, but living human beings worthy of protection.

Bearing in mind that, as indicated in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, “the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth(UNCRC)

How can it be torture to deny a mother the right to kill her own baby and at the same time argue for the highest levels of protection to be granted to children, the most vulnerable and defenceless members of our community? Is the UN schizophrenic? Can this internal contradiction ever be resolved? It might be helpful to note that the UN report on torture is not a legally binding document, whereas the UNCRC is legally binding because Singapore has acceded to it in 1995.

At the heart of the matter, abortion is not about denying women the autonomy over their own bodies, but rather, denying a child in the womb the right to life. Is the baby in the womb a natural extension of the mother? Is the DNA of the baby exactly the same as the mother’s? The answer to both questions is a resounding no. Babies are distinct individuals who have their own set of DNA, though they derive it from both biological parents, and who should be accorded separate rights from the mother. Women, just like men, have freedom over their own body, but they should not be allowed to have autonomy over someone else’s.

(2) Sex Education

Abstinence

Choosing to teach abstinence is scientifically and logically sound. If the human sperm and human egg unite, a human embryo will be formed and eventually develop into a human foetus. If a man and woman do not have sex (abstinence), the egg will not be fertilised by the sperm and she will not be pregnant with a baby. How is it judgmental and biased to teach biological facts? In Singapore, this is Primary school level Science (under the topic of Life Cycles, if you must know). Abstinence is 100% effective and should not be shelved as a ‘prudish’ ideology just because some liberal adults wish to impose their alternative lifestyle on the rest of society. Furthermore, teaching it will not hurt the ability of people to make informed decisions about sex later in life, but instead provide a good grounding for their sexual habits and practices.

There is a time and place for everything. While might not be productive to encourage awareness and access to contraception at such a young age for obvious reasons, though would be necessary when the student is older (sex education starts at Primary 4-5 and there is an extended, advanced course at the Secondary level). Ultimately, sex education should continue to emphasise the notion that sex should take place within the confines of a loving relationship between husband and wife. This doctrine of monogamy (endorsed by the preamble of the Women’s Charter) is the best thing to teach our young girls and boys because it sets the framework for building strong, healthy families in the future.

Human Identity

The idea that babies in the womb are living and human is scientifically sound, and the bone of contention is rather with the legal definition of personhood. Raghunathan, Tan and Wee conflate these two concepts when they argue for their position based on ‘medical facts’. It would not be ill-informed to project a human identity on a blastocyst, embryo or foetus because a simple DNA test would reveal that the embryo is indeed human (and not a fish or monkey) and observation over several days will tell doctors and scientists that the embryo is indeed alive and growing (and not dead). Therefore, it cannot be refuted or denied that babies in the womb, at any stage of development, are human and alive.

The real issue is with the legal definition of a foetus and whether we as a society are prepared to confer it with the status of ‘personhood’. To argue that a baby in the womb, though 100% human and 100% alive, is not a ‘person’ is very dangerous. Making such a distinction only serves to further dehumanise the baby, and this painfully recalls the grotesque actions by Hitler and Nazi Germany to strip the Jewish people of legal personhood in the (evil but completely legally) Nuremberg Laws of 1935, or the institution of slavery in 18th and 19th century USA and South America, or racist segregationist policies in apartheid South Africa from the 1950s to 1990s, or the the genocidal mass slaughter of the Tutsis by the Hutus in Rwanda in 1994.

This is not pure rhetoric and fanciful thinking. History has proven time and time again that whenever a group of people have tried to delegitimise another racial, ethnic, religious or social group by claiming they are not human (or claiming they are cockroaches, apes and monkeys, dogs, etc), it ultimately leads to violent murder and bloodshed. Just as how the removal of personhood from the Jews led to the cruel (legal) slaughter of 6 million innocent Jewish men, women and children in Europe, the removal of personhood from foetuses has, and will continue to, cause the cruel (and legal) slaughter of millions of babies worldwide.

Baby in the womb 2

Raghunathan, Tan and Wee are absolutely correct when they say that “decisions to abort pregnancies are not to be made lightly” because ultimately the subject of an abortion is an innocent non-consenting child who has no capability (though he or she has the potential) to speak up for itself. As the slogan goes, there would be no abortion if babies could vote. As human beings, we have the duty to speak up for fellow humans who suffer injustice and indignity regardless of their location or station in life – whether they are mentally-handicapped Singaporeans, persecuted people living under foreign dictatorships, impoverished foreign workers who are exploited and abused, needy, elderly residents, ex-convicts striving to be law-abiding, or babies in the womb.

People should not base their decision to murder their own child on irrelevant factors such as the physical and mental health of the mother, the burden of motherhood and childcare, the stigma of single parenthood, economic difficulties, and lifestyle choices. Contrary to popular belief, this will not violate the free will of women in any way; they are allowed to choose – and they made their choice to have unprotected sex 9 months ago. We do not live under a totalitarian, fundamentalist dictatorship where women are stoned for adultery or pre-marital sex, but many of us do not want to live in an oppressive, cold-hearted society where thousands of innocent babies are murdered without a second thought merely because their mothers and fathers prefer not to take responsibility for their actions and feel the baby will interfere with their current lifestyle.

It is hypocritical for a feminist organisation like AWARE to take the view that child rearing is still largely a woman’s responsibility and make policy choices based on that outdated concept. Rather, we as a society should recognise the importance of the role that fathers play in the family and work hard to make them feel they can contribute significantly to the development of their children. To say that abortion is a woman’s choice is sexist – it puts the burden solely on the shoulders of the mother by isolating her as a decision-maker and depriving her of any moral support and assistance, and at the same time, it excludes the father from assuming any responsibility for the child and family that he has helped to create.

A baby has long-term consequences for both parents. Instead of campaigning to ensure the giant rubbish chute for ‘unwanted children’ remains open, AWARE (and concerned citizens of Singapore) should focus on respecting the rights of mothers and fathers, and fight to give them all the available opportunities and resources to bring up their child safely with wisdom and love.

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Insidious Motives

Insidious Motives

Avowed racist, eugenicist, religious bigot.

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Alveda King on Abortion

Alveda King

American pro-life activist, author and minister, niece of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Happy Birthday Singapore!

Happy 48th Birthday Singapore!

Happy 48th Birthday Singapore!

Happy 48th Birthday Singapore! You have truly come so far: From a sleepy fishing village in the backwaters of Southeast Asia to a major Straits Settlement colony, you survived the discrimination of the British and the horrors of the Japanese Occupation and defied the odds to become the most literate, wealthiest and most developed nation in the region. Along the way, you built towering steel skyscrapers and winding concrete jungles, and yet managed to purify the rivers and preserve our natural rainforests. You have navigated the IT boom and digital revolution with amazing ease and also kept our unique cultural heritage alive amidst the threat of globalisation. You put your best foot forward at all times and have never failed to shine on the world stage. You are a miracle indeed.

Yes, you do have your quirks. Like the national obsession with finding good food (there are even apps for that), the insane Hello Kitty lines at McDonalds, the kiasu queues at Expo/Suntec PC shows, the soul-sucking, fear-inducing exam seasons, the STOMPers and exhibitionistic Youtubers, the occasional hazy presents from our neighbours (and the expensive N95 masks we buy), the embarrassing sex scandals, the suffocating MRT rides … And yet we love you warts and all.

Thank you for being there for all of us through thick and thin, through the hail in Jurong  and Clementi and the flash floods in Bukit Timah and Orchard Road. We will always remember and be grateful to our forefathers and mothers who sacrificed so much that we may reap where we did not sow. So, thank you for giving us so many opportunities and blessings throughout the years without expecting anything in return. Even though we complain a lot (maybe too much!), we still love you with all our hearts, and we could not have come this far nor climbed this high without you.

So, my dear Singapore, may those who love you prosper and find happiness, and may you continue to foster unity, harmony, friendship and peace among all your people. May there be security within your walls and kindness within your gates. May you treat your poor and needy with justice, mercy and compassion, and remain humble in all that you do.

Happy Birthday dear Sunny Island Set in the Sea.

You are one-of-a-kind and we and are proud to call you home.

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Ronald Reagan (1911 – 2004)

Ronald Reagan (1911 – 2004)

40th President of the United States

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180 Degrees: A Changed Woman

Norma McCorvey

Norma McCorvey

“The holocaust against the unborn is the greatest sin they could ever do or even ever participate in.”

Called the accidental activist, Norma McCorvey’s journey to becoming pro-life was quite unconventional. She was none other than the ‘Jane Roe’ in landmark case of Roe v. Wade 410 U.S. 113 (1973), where the United States Supreme Court flung open the floodgates for legalised abortion in the country. American women now had the ‘freedom’ to terminate a pregnancy at any point during the first 24 weeks.

McCorvey first tried to obtain an abortion in Texas first by claiming rape, but that failed because there were no police reports or documentation as evidence for her claim. Later she attempted to visit an illegal clinic, but also failed because the clinic had been shut down recently by the authorities. She tried to hire attorneys to help her sue for the right to an abortion, but the ones she was referred to turned out to be ambitious lawyers seeking any plaintiff who could advance their agenda in challenging Texas state law on abortion. By the time the case reached the Supreme Court, McCorvey had already given birth to the baby in question. This baby was put up for adoption.

Ironically, McCovery never did get the abortion she initially wanted to. And yet, she “a symbol of the right to a procedure that she herself never underwent”.

“I was sitting in O.R.’s offices when I noticed a fetal development poster. The progression was so obvious, the eyes were so sweet. It hurt my heart, just looking at them. I ran outside and finally, it dawned on me. ‘Norma’, I said to myself, ‘They’re right’. I had worked with pregnant women for years. I had been through three pregnancies and deliveries myself. I should have known. Yet something in that poster made me lose my breath. I kept seeing the picture of that tiny, 10-week-old embryo, and I said to myself, that’s a baby! It’s as if blinders just fell off my eyes and I suddenly understood the truth — that’s a baby!

I felt crushed under the truth of this realization. I had to face up to the awful reality. Abortion wasn’t about ‘products of conception’. It wasn’t about ‘missed periods’. It was about children being killed in their mother’s wombs. All those years I was wrong. Signing that affidavit, I was wrong. Working in an abortion clinic, I was wrong. No more of this first trimester, second trimester, third trimester stuff. Abortion — at any point — was wrong. It was so clear. Painfully clear.”

Norma McCorvey has co-written two autobiographies, I Am Roe (1994) and Won by Love (1997) detailing her journey from a 21-year-old single mother of two seeking an abortion for her third child to becoming the reluctant star plaintiff in a legal case that forever changed the course of history to finally undergoing a life-changing event that made her the staunch pro-life activist she is today. She has worked at organisations like Operation Rescue and now runs her own pro-life ministry – Crossing Over Ministry.

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The Family Pledge

The Family Pledge (National Family Council)

The Family Pledge (National Family Council)

“We, the people of Singapore,
pledge to build strong and happy Families.
We affirm the commitment of marriage
between husband and wife.
And take responsibility to nurture our children,
and respect our elders.
We celebrate and honour
the roles of each Family member.
And uphold the Family as the foundation”

The Family Pledge was released by the National Family Council(NFC) on 30 July 2013. One of the objectives of the NFC is to promote a ‘family first’ mindset as an integral part of Singaporeans’ lives as the family is a significant component in the country’s national social fabric. This is unsurprising because one of our country’s Shared Values states that the family is most stable fundamental building block of the nation. These Shared Values were meant to bind the diverse communities of Singapore together as a nation and was intended to preserve our Asian identities as Singapore moved forward in an increasingly globalised and interconnected world.

However, being the world champion Complainers that we are, some Singaporeans have kicked up such a great fuss about the wording of the Family Pledge, arguing that it is far from something to be applauded and is in fact a “giant stinking whopper of an insult” to people who do not believe in the common sense definition of a family. In addition, some even go as far to say that it is a “conservative fundamentalist Christian manifesto” in disguise. Conspiracy theory much?

Except Christianity and LK

First, there is nothing wrong with expressing the ideals that the majority of Singaporeans hold concerning the importance of the family in a pledge. Singapore herself is a strongly pro-family nation with a gamut of schemes such as the Marriage and Parenthood package, the Baby Bonus package, extended maternity and paternity leave, pro-family housing policies (Parenthood Priority), etc, all with the aim of providing support to Singaporeans who wish to get married and raise children. Moreover, in the recent Singapore Conversation, which sought to engage citizens about the shared values, ideals and aspirations, it was apparent that Singaporeans continue to care deeply about families.

We live in a democratic society where all eligible citizens, regardless of race, language or religion, are able to vote and participate equally in society both directly and through the representatives we elect. If some citizens feel they are uncomfortable with certain laws, they have the freedom to voice their views and opinions, and they have the option to ask their MP to bring up that issue for debate in Parliament. No one person or group, including Lawrence Khong and his congregants, is restricting their civil liberties or freedom of expression in any way.

That being said, people should always remain respectful and tolerant and take care not to insult the religion of others along the way. We may be a democratic secular state but we are also a multi-religious and multi-ethnic society, giving rise to a unique blend of Singapore secularism, characterised by the former Chief Justice Yong Pung How in the Court of Appeal in Nappalli Peter Williams v. Institute of Technical Education as ‘accommodative secularism’.

This means that the Singapore government works hand-in-hand with religious organisations (e.g. the collection of Mosque Building Fund contributions is facilitated by the CPF), provides government funding for religious schools (e.g. Catholic secondary schools), accommodates religious holidays (e.g. Vesak Day, Good Friday, Hari Raya Puasa), provides jurisdiction for certain religious courts (e.g. Muslim marriage, divorce and inheritance matters are under the jurisdiction of the Syariah Court).

More importantly, this brand of accommodative secularism means that religion is not to be completely excised out of the public square. In fact, religious views are and have always been welcome in public consultation concerning morally controversial issues such as the Casino debate in 2005 and the 2002 BAC Report on Cloning and Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research. So while I agree that one particular religion should not be allowed to inform our tax or competition law regimes, it does not mean we ignore or discredit a person’s opinion because they are a priest, monk, nun, rabbi, imam or pastor of a mega-church.

Another bugbear that has been highlighted by the malcontents on the Interwebz is that ‘family’ has been defined too narrowly and, as a result, it excludes same-sex couples, single parents and anyone not in a traditional nuclear family. This feeling arises from the common assumption that homosexuality are a good thing and that any rejection of that is discriminatory and bigoted.

However, not everyone in Singapore subscribes to this belief. For the majority of society, marriage between husband and wife and the family may be accepted as a basic good of life, but homosexual marriage remains a highly controversial, unresolved issue. By adhering to this traditional ‘husband and wife’ model, Singapore has chosen not to blindly follow the way of the West in legalising civil unions or marriages between gay couples, and instead carve out her own path after balancing the competing interests of the community. This is a wise, practical decision as it is impossible to reach any type of consensus at this stage. As such, those who strongly advocate for gay marriage should restrain themselves from imposing their beliefs on the rest of us.

In my opinion, I do not think that the NFC’s Family Pledge is a ‘bigoted’ strike on homosexuals; a traditional family and homosexuality are not mutually exclusive. There is nothing in the Pledge that advocates taking away any civil rights from gays and lesbians, nor is there anything in it that purports to give heterosexual couples additional rights. Any inference otherwise only signals that the reader has conflated the homosexual person with homosexual conduct. For the record, there is no hatred, contempt or intolerance (the actual definition of bigotry) on the part of the NFC towards divorced couples or single parents for that matter.

Inigo Montoya understands the meaning of bigotry. Do you?

Inigo Montoya understands the meaning of bigotry. Do you?

Singaporeans are so difficult to please; when the government introduces new measures to boost the economy and create jobs, they say nothing is being done to repair the broken software of the nation, when the government comes up with ideas to strengthen the social fabric, they say the government should stay out of their bedrooms and keep their eyes on the hardware and the economy. I for one would like to congratulate the NFC on a job well done and I hope that there will be many positive outcomes from this move to remind Singaporeans on what truly matters in the long run.

While it may be true that some people who have families that do not fit into this traditional mould of the Family Pledge may feel left out, it is false to assume that every single one of them is an angry crusader against the ‘Patriarchy’ and wants a re-working of the Pledge to suit their situation. On the contrary, the vast majority of children who come from broken families desperately wish they had a ‘normal’ family, with a loving father and mother, and are committed to ensuring their future children will not have to go through the same negative experiences as they did.

Instead of criticising this Family Pledge, Singaporeans should commend the government for their efforts to build stronger bonds within the family and wider community. Stopping prejudice and discrimination against single parents is a noble cause, but it is even more effective to stop separation and divorce from happening in the first place. Some wisdom is needed here. We must pull down unnecessary dividing fences between neighbours but it does not mean that we foolishly destroy the outer walls of our city and leave ourselves vulnerable to attacks from the enemy.

Let us refrain from romanticising broken families (and writing misery lit about their supposed disenfranchisement) and instead work together to ensure people from broken homes receive the healing, support and protection they deserve, and are given the opportunities and a conducive environment to build stronger and happier families.

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180 Degrees: A Changed Man

“We fed the public a line of deceit, dishonesty, a fabrication of statistics and figures. We succeeded because the time was right and the news media cooperated. We sensationalized the effects of illegal abortions, and fabricated polls which indicated that 85 percent of the public favored unrestricted abortion, when we knew it was only 5 percent. We unashamedly lied, and yet our statements were quoted [by the media] as though they had been written in law.”

Dr. Bernard Nathanson

Dr. Bernard Nathanson

Dr. Bernard Nathanson (1926 – 2011) was the Co-founder of National Association for Repeal of Abortion Laws, now called National Abortion Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), one of the strongest advocates for legal abortion in the USA. 

However, a little known fact was that this same doctor who was instrumental to the success of the pro-choice movement, and who was responsible for close to 75,000 abortions during his career as a gynaecologist and obstetrician, underwent a profound change of heart to become a passionate pro-life author and activist later on in his life. A watershed moment for him was in the 1970s after the advent of ultrasound allowed him the opportunity to observe a real-time abortion. 

“I ran the largest abortion clinic in the world for 2 years. I had no conflicts whatsoever at the time I was doing the abortions. I changed my mind because the new scientific data which we were getting from advanced technology persuaded me that we could not indiscriminately continue to slaughter what was demonstrably a human being.”

“In the early 70s we began to use machinery, apparatus, and instruments which allowed us to finally put a larger and much more sophisticated window into the womb. But for the first time as a physician and as an ethical person, I began to understand that more was involved in an abortion than merely suctioning out a mass of cells, a few grams of tissue. I began to be aware that there was something here which had a moral density to it which commanded respect.”

Some of his works include his book, Abortion Papers: Inside the Abortion Mentality (1983), his autobiography, The Hand of God: A Journey from Death to Life by the Abortion Doctor Who Changed His Mind (1996) and a documentary he co-produced and narrated The Silent Scream (1984) and the follow-up documentary The Eclipse of Reason (1987).

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Honour Thy (Feminist) Mother

The Sunday Times featured an article by Rachel Chang entitled “Feminism means making your own choices” (14 July 2013). The author laments how women of this generation are failing to cast off the shackles of yesterday and march shoulder-to-shoulder with older generation of feminists into the fray, to paraphrase the lyrics of a famous song from an old Disney movie, in their stance toward the traditional pillars of ‘patriarchy’ – marriage and motherhood. According to Ms. Chang, this new breed of women do not appreciate the sacrifices made by their feminist mothers and are squandering away their inheritance by having the audacity to aspire to be a good wife and mother.

As a classical feminist who believes in equal rights and opportunities, I have come to believe that the modern strain of feminism of this day and age has lost its vision and compass. What started out as a noble civil rights movement to fling wide the floodgates for women to be educated and participate and contribute in virtually all fields has now degenerated into a movement which frequently undermines and attacks the very group it claims to assist, and which many modern women attempt to distance themselves from.

With the exception of a rare few, it is increasingly common for many women’s interests groups today to promote one particular brand of liberal, politicised feminism, inadvertently marginalising the women, like myself, who hold alternative ideologies that do not fit the ‘accepted’ mould.

Like Ms. Chang, I also acknowledge that women do, at times, engage in activities which ‘(let) the sisterhood down’ but not in the way she would imagine. In my opinion, a betrayal of the sisterhood would be, for example, when women proclaim they are sexually empowered by becoming porn stars or strippers, or when they advocate the legalisation and regulation the ‘sex industry’ instead of working to eradicate the scourge of prostitution and human trafficking, or when they devalue motherhood by scoffing at women who choose to have more than two children, or whenever they criticise anyone who does not conform to their standards of womanhood, e.g., feminists who take a pro-life position and do not hail abortion as a instrument of female liberation, or feminists who believe in sexual purity and the sanctity of marriage. (Yes we do exist.)

This type of faux empowerment – of the Lady Gaga and Brazilian wax variety – that modern feminists proclaim is a boon for women is certainly not what our mothers and grandmothers fought for. They championed for issues that truly mattered to the advancement of women, like the encouraging of young girls to venture into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields, shattering the glass ceiling at workplaces and closing the pay gap, providing economic opportunities and microloans to impoverished mothers to support their families, and enacting laws to protect girls from female genital mutilation, sex trafficking and child marriages.

It is depressing that modern feminist mantra of ‘choice’ has been abused to the point where it enslaves more women than it liberates. What a curious twist of history where mothers have to rigorously justify their choice to become a homemaker to other women and even convince themselves that they are not making a poor decision! At least Ms. Chang is honest in her struggle in comprehending why so many ‘intelligent, wonderful human beings’ prefer raising a family to etching out an ambitious career.

Perhaps then it is time to admit that women are biologically different from men, and we will never progress if we keep comparing ourselves to men. We cannot expect to live our lives in exactly the same way, and, instead, we must move away from destructive competition and focus on constructive synergies. In an age of the plurality of choices, Ms. Chang would do well to reconsider her idea of what constitutes a “good marker” of the true feminist position and not make it merely dependent on what is happening in the men’s locker rooms.

However, Ms. Chang and her contemporaries have no reason to fear for the ‘great feminist victory’ has not been in vain. A large majority of women and girls all over the world have access to education and equal civil and legal rights previously unheard of a little over a century ago. In the vast sea of the developed world, women can vote in elections, go to university and get a law degree, own properties, marry whomever they choose, etc. In Singapore, the Women’s Charter, passed in 1961, does a great deal to protect and advance the rights of women and girls in Singapore.

Just because some women are re-evaluating modern feminist theories about traditional marriage and motherhood does not mean that they are ‘regressing’ into the Dark Ages, nor does it detract from the accomplishments of the founders of feminism, like philosopher Mary Wollenstonecraft (acclaimed author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women) who argued passionately for the importance of educating the daughters of the nation, or political activist Emmeline Pankhurst (leader of the British suffragette movement). Perhaps, many women have come to the conclusion that the current, modern feminist ideology is full of imperfections and are trying to weed out the bugs in the operating system and set firewalls in place.

Women, though romantics, are also pragmatists – much like the many strong-willed feminist heroines who populate the books written by a certain Ms. Jane Austen, herself a strong advocate for female equality, unlike what Ms. Chang wrongly described in her article. Instead of lamenting the attrition of members from the liberal modern feminist camp, we should learn from our mistakes and adapt to new 21st Century social dynamics and structures, first by tackling the obstacles and refining the way we think, work and live. We should pour our energies into re-integrating families, children and the home in our feminist narrative instead of disregarding them, and we should re-introduce fathers and husbands (Dads for Life anyone?) into the decision-making process and ask them to take on more responsibilities instead of habitually shutting them out until they run away.

And when more Singaporean women are equipped with the information to better navigate the pitfalls of our predecessors and the know-how to develop our femininity amidst the confusing jungle of contemporary society, we would have succeeded our mission in a way that would make our classical feminist mothers proud.

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We Stand With Lila Rose

We Stand With Lila Rose

American pro-life activist, founder of pro-life group Live Action

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Mother Teresa (1910 – 1997)

Mother Teresa (1910 – 1997)

Founder of the Missionaries of Charity, winner of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize

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Feminism in Singapore Requires Radical Redirection

My friend and I had a discussion about the focus of modern day liberal feminism and we both agree that it has strayed too far from its original roots.

Instead of promoting equal rights and opportunities for women, AWARE has now morphed into this ugly organisation which seems hell-bent on attacking women who hold conservative viewpoints and believe in family values. Why is there so much focus on keeping our liberal abortion laws and time limits instead of saving young baby girls who are in danger of being aborted? Why is there so much emphasis on the gay agenda instead of combating promiscuity? Why is there no lobby for stronger protection for maids?

Because of AWARE’s choice to emphasise certain issues, I am now reluctant to call myself a feminist because I do not want to be lumped together with the AWARE crowd. The feminism I fell in love with was the one that fought for justice, fairness and equity; the one that championed the cause of the oppressed and downtrodden; the one that spoke up for those who could not speak for themselves. Now, the modern day trend of most feminist groups seems to be headed in the opposite direction by ignoring the true victims and cowering them into silence.

Here are some topics that will hopefully serve as a reminder of what issues AWARE should be highlighting and fighting against:

1) Mutilation of Women: Bibi Aisha (Aesha Mohammadzai) is a brave young woman from Afghanistan who was forced into an arranged marriage at 12 and tried to run away from her abusive husband and in-laws when she was 18 years old. She was eventually caught by the Taliban who saw fit to punish her by disfigurement – cutting off her nose and ears. Connected to this issue is of course the entire controversy of practice of female genital mutilation – an unspeakable horror that should have been abolished long ago.

2) Maid Abuse: Sumiati Bte Salan Mustapa, a 23-year-old Indonesian maid who suffered much abuse from her employers, including having her lips cut off and her back burned with an iron. Because of shocking cases like these, certain activist groups in Indonesia want their government to stop sending its citizens to Saudi Arabia to work as maids. Closer to home, horrible cases of maid abuse – specifically Singaporean employers physically and sexually abusing their foreign maids – are sadly more prevalent than they ought to be. On top of this, another distressing fact is that most of the abuse of women are carried out by women!

3) (Honour) Killings/Murder: The tragic case of Surjit Athwal and many other innocent women are a stark reminder that while we live in the 21st Century, such barbaric practices of violence against women have not completely disappeared. Unfortunately, to add salt to the wound, many liberal feminist groups, including AWARE, rarely talk about honour killings and ironically choose to spend the bulk of their energy and resources to promote the murder of baby girls. It has been proven that abortion is a powerful form of gendercide, shrinking the global female population at an alarming rate but AWARE prefers to cover this inconvenient fact up with language of choice and reproductive rights. As if it could ever be a right to kill another human being.

4) Sex Trafficking: Like maid abuse, this problem is sadly more rampant than it should be. The scores of Indonesian, Thai, Indian, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan and Vietnamese girls and women operating in the back-lanes of Geylang definitely fall within the category of marginalised women and yet very little is being said about them or done for them. While there have been government initiatives and polio crackdowns, it is surprising that the ‘leading gender equality advocacy group’ has done nothing to help these women and girls while they are in Singapore. The only organisations actively reaching out to these women (providing food, shelter and counselling) are Christian and faith-based organisations, which is should be an embarrassment for an anti-religious group like AWARE.

Here’s a radical idea: Instead of championing the rights of women to have the ‘freedom to love’, AWARE should concentrate their energies on alleviating the plight of trafficked teenaged girls in Geylang suffering from the crippling effects of poverty and prostitution. Instead of arguing passionately for mothers to be allowed to kill their babies up until the 6th month of pregnancy, AWARE should work with religious charities and organisations to help single mothers and women who want to keep their children. Instead of constantly harping on the glass ceiling in the corporate world, AWARE should take some time out of its busy schedule to work towards eradicating the problem of maid abuse in Singapore.

Poverty is admittedly an intractable problem that will probably never be completely solved in our lifetime, but this does not mean give us an excuse to stand idly by and let the foreigners in our country be abused and mistreated. They deserve to be accorded the same basic human rights and dignity as Singaporean workers, no more no less. After all, in another time and place, these women could have been your mother, sister or daughter.

While it is understandable that AWARE probably wishes to focus on issues more pertinent to women in Singapore, I cannot understand they choose devote so much time and energy to promoting abortion, pre-marital sex (promiscuity) and homosexuality when there are far more obvious and significant issues to focus on. More benefit to women, both direct and indirect, can be generated by combating abortion, maid abuse and illegal prostitution in Singapore, or even by raising awareness about honour killings and female genital mutilation in other countries. All these are extremely heavy-weight issues with a wide-reaching impact, and should form the core of AWARE’s objectives if AWARE truly cares about the interests of women.

We need far-reaching, comprehensive change in Singapore; we need to make a conscious stand against violence and discrimination in our society, so that women and girls everywhere will not have to suffer abuse or indignity. And this can begin with a radical redirection of the current trend of AWARE’s advocacy efforts.

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