Written by Ng E-Jay
13 July 2009
It was reported recently in Channel News Asia that around 12,000 foetuses are aborted every year in Singapore, with doctors claiming that not enough people are using contraceptives, or are using them incorrectly.
At face value, the number of 12,000 abortions every year must lead some pro-life pundits to claim that our family planning policies have gone astray and perhaps to even question whether our social norms are degrading. Over the years, there have been repeated calls for Singapore’s relatively easy access to abortion to be examined with the view that it should be tightened.
However, one must go beyond the superficial numbers presented and seek to understand the underlying reasons for those abortions. Although the Channel News Asia article focussed on the lack of use of contraceptives in explaining the abortion rates, I suspect many cases are due to socio-economic reasons and financial hardship.
According to the Channel News Asia article, about half of the abortions are done by married women. The article also says that many women have misconceptions about the side effects of contraceptives, for example, inaccurately thinking that birth control pills may be linked to cancer or weight gain.
Dr Beh Suan Tiong, president of the Obstetrical & Gynaecological Society of Singapore, said: “Every contraception method (carries) some potential side effects but they actually rank much less compared to the risk of abortion.”
Don’t these misconceptions demonstrate clearly the need for Comprehensive Sexuality Education?
During the AWARE saga, pro-life and religious-minded conservatives launched stinging attacks on AWARE’s Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) programme, claiming that it promoted homosexuality and disregarded family values.
The truth is the AWARE’s CSE programme focusses on empowering youths by providing them facts and information in a neutral setting and teaching them to make responsible, informed choices. The correct use of contraceptives is also a key component of the programme.
There are yet other critics and bigots who still to this day claim that we should not teach our young to use condoms, lest they become promiscuous. (SEE: Medieval attitudes towards sex and sexuality, rather than tolerance of alternative lifestyles, undermine the social fabric.)
But clearly, if the doctors are correct in saying that the lack of knowledge or misunderstandings concerning contraceptives are a key reason why abortion rates in Singapore are rising, then all the more we need CSE programmes that impart to our youths the information they need.