THE number of abortions performed in Singapore dipped to its lowest level in three decades last year.
There were 8,515, about 8 per cent fewer than in 2013, according to Ministry of Health (MOH) figures released to The Straits Times.
Last year's total is about a third of the peak of 23,512 abortions in 1985.
The number of abortions has been on the decline since then, with an average of 11,200 each year in the past decade.
But foreigners have been bucking the trend.
Almost a quarter of the women who had abortions last year were from overseas, up from about 15 per cent in 2004.
Pre-abortion counselling was made mandatory in 1987, except for certain groups of women, such as foreigners.
But this changed with effect from April 17, and counselling has been extended to all women seeking abortions.
Gynaecologists and counsellors believe that the overall drop in abortion numbers is due not to pre-abortion counselling, but to various reasons, such as families being supportive of parenthood and adoption, or more people using contraception.
Ms Haslinda Md So'od, a case worker with Babes Pregnancy Crisis Support, told The Straits Times: "Younger people are getting more educated and more aware of contraceptive devices available in the market."
Dr Christopher Ng of GynaeMD Women's and Rejuvenation Clinic in Camden Medical Centre said: "Women are more well-read and better informed about contraception, possibly through magazines or sex education in schools."
As to why more foreigners were having abortions, experts said the reasons were usually due to pregnancy affecting their job prospects in Singapore.
Under manpower laws, female work-permit holders such as maids cannot continue working here if they get pregnant or deliver a child here, unless they are married to a Singaporean or permanent resident.
Mr John Gee, a volunteer with Transient Workers Count Too, said: "If they find out that they are pregnant, the main problem is that they know the clock has started to tick down to the time when they will lose their jobs and be sent home."
With families depending on them to send money back home, the workers would not want to lose their jobs here.
Mr Timothy Karl, executive director of the Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, said: "(Mid-level skilled) foreign workers holding S Pass can get pregnant and give birth here, but they are not entitled to maternity leave and are liable for all medical costs incurred in delivering the baby."
Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics executive director Jolovan Wham said the women may also be afraid of being stigmatised by their community back home if their child is born out of wedlock.
Mr Karl said: "To overcome and cope with their challenges, everyone should be given the opportunity to speak to counsellors.
"We should bear in mind that every child lost in an abortion is one too many."
IF YOU are distressed by an unplanned pregnancy, call the following helplines for assistance
- Pregnancy Crisis Service: 6339-9770
- Alife: 6258-8816
- Babes: 8111-3535
(for pregnant teenagers)