Help those with abortion guilt

For a small country struggling with low birth rates, it is no stretch to say that every baby counts.

The Government has pumped in significant resources to fund initiatives such as the Baby Bonus to encourage Singaporeans to have more babies.

So, it is welcome news that fewer women are ending their pregnancies. Last year, there were 7,217 abortions performed - the lowest since the peak of 23,512 in 1985.

Meanwhile, the number of births has remained more constant, fluctuating between about 38,000 and about 42,000 a year over the past decade.

What this shows, abortion counsellors say, is that there are a lot fewer unwanted pregnancies.

The greater use of contraception and the easing of the stigma of single motherhood are factors cited for the sharp fall in abortions.

Even when it comes to teenage pregnancy, the number of abortions by teens and number of babies born to teens has also fallen significantly in the past decade. By all accounts, today's youth are a lot more savvy in using condoms, say youth workers.

While the number of abortions has fallen steadily, it is worth noting that the 7,217 abortions last year works out to about 20 a day.

Abortion counsellors say women often struggle with shame, guilt or anger after the act - feelings that can fester for years.

It is important they get the help they need to deal with the struggles they are going through, especially as it is not a topic most people readily discuss.

Singapore is not a society where people discuss post-abortion issues openly, although a few brave women have stepped out to do so.

One such woman is Ms June Bai, 30, who had an abortion in her early 20s and suffered guilt and shame for years.

She recently started a support group and an initiative called the Buttons Project Singapore, where she invites people to send in buttons to commemorate "the babies we have never met".

Hopefully, by sharing her story, more women are able to find the courage to seek the help they need.

Theresa Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2017, with the headline 'Help those with abortion guilt'. Print Edition | Subscribe