MARUAH sent a letter to the Straits Times Forum following a news article on abortion. Our letter was published in the Sunday Times on 24th March 2013.
Pre-abortion counselling: Access should be equal for all
As a human rights group, Maruah objects to the conditions for offering counselling services to women and girls seeking abortions (“Abortions in Singapore“; last Sunday).
Though we recognise that having an abortion is a personal choice, counselling is a means to help women and girls cope with their decisions.
On that premise, we find the Government’s conditions for offering pre-abortion counselling – a minimum Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) qualification, being a mother to fewer than three children, not being a rape victim or a foreigner – appalling as they deny some women and older teens access to counselling.
What is particularly abhorrent is the implication that abortion is reserved for those who do not attain academic success in standardised tests such as the PSLE. Surely, on such a personal matter as abortion, it is the Government’s duty to ensure that everyone has equal access to counselling.
We also note that this is a discriminatory practice against the principles of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which Singapore ratified in 1995.
It is also disturbing that girls aged 16 and below can access abortion without parental consent. The girl needs support and protection beyond the act of an abortion.
Though we recognise that families can sometimes be the problem, they need to be counselled to be supportive of the daughter’s decision. If it is an equally young boy who has been involved, he too needs counselling.
Singapore’s high abortion rate – among older teens and adults especially – is a sad reflection of the failure of comprehensive sex education, which ought to deal with abstinence, being faithful, condom use and/or contraceptives. All these methods have been proven to be highly effective in reducing both unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
Abortion is a very personal choice that women and girls make with or without their partners. There can be no discrimination on who has access to counselling services. And the way to reduce abortions is to offer a comprehensive sexuality education programme that includes discussions on safe sex and the use of contraceptives.
Braema Mathi (Ms)