Restore parental consent for abortions for under-18s

In Singapore, a child under 18 cannot legally purchase cigarettes or alcohol, consent to be married, and does not have the capacity to enter into a contract.

Young people are generally presumed to be unable to fully understand the consequences of their actions and, therefore, are unable to give valid informed consent.

Yet, parental consent is not needed if a girl under the age of 18 wishes to have an abortion.

The Health Ministry has resisted the parental consent requirement on the basis that "many teenagers who go for an abortion may not have the necessary family support" and "there are concerns that some may be driven to backstreet abortions" ("Teenagers 'starting to have sex at a younger age'"; Feb 22).

However, this was not always the case.

In 1969, when abortion was first liberalised in Singapore, an unmarried girl under the age of 18 had to obtain the consent of at least one of her parents or her guardian in order to undergo an abortion. This requirement was lifted in 1974.

It is not true that parental consent is harmful to girls considering abortion.

According to a United States study from 1987 to 2003, laws requiring parental notification or consent were associated with a 15 per cent to 25 per cent reduction in suicides committed by girls from 15 to 17 years of age.

The Singapore Government has also affirmed the value of family involvement. In 2003, then Health Minister Lim Hng Kiang explained that the Health Ministry encouraged teenagers "to bring in their families" to the mandatory pre-abortion counselling sessions "so that counselling can be done holistically".

Thus, the Government should restore the need for parental consent for abortions performed on girls under the age of 18.

Young women who find themselves pregnant, as well as their families, should be given love, care and support.

As far as possible, the Government should help to promote reconciliation and restoration of family ties, rather than allow young women to undergo the invasive procedure of abortion alone.

Darius Lee