Racked by shame and guilt after abortion, she now hopes to help others with new support group

June Bai, 30, had an abortion in her early 20s. In June this year, she started The Buttons Project Singapore, a support group for those with similar experiences.
Miss June Bai set up The Button Project Singapore to help provide support for women who are struggling to come to terms with an abortion.
Miss June Bai set up The Button Project Singapore to help provide support for women who are struggling to come to terms with an abortion.ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR

SINGAPORE - Miss June Bai, 30, had an abortion in her early 20s, suffered from the guilt and shame of it for years, and now wants to help others in her shoes.

Seven or eight years ago, her former boyfriend suggested an abortion. She had found out that she was about two months pregnant. She "went along" with it.

She told The Straits Times: "I saw a lot of fear in his eyes. If I kept the child, will I lose him and end up as a single mum? That's really scary. I don't think I can raise a child alone.

"What will others and my family think of me?"

She said they split up shortly after that; the relationship collapsing under the weight of their decision to terminate the pregnancy. She was also racked with guilt and shame and felt she could not tell anyone what she had done.

Miss Bai, who is single, also felt she had no right to grieve as she was the one who made the choice to end the pregnancy. So she threw herself into her job in the finance industry - her way of "escaping" the pain.

But every single night for 1½ years, she cried herself to sleep.

"I felt (like) something inside me died. I felt brokenness and hopelessness," she said. "I'm supposed to protect my weak and defenceless child, but I took a life away."

 

For a long time, she could not hear the word "abortion" without feeling a sharp pain inside. Once, she signed up to donate blood, but when she was filling up the form, there was a question that asked if she was pregnant. She could not continue with the form, nor the blood donation. It was that incredibly hard to face up to her abortion, she said.

Over time, Miss Bai, a Christian, found emotional healing through her faith. But what really helped was attending Rachel's Vineyard, a Catholic-based programme which address the emotional and psychological pain from an abortion run by the Family Life Society, a charity.

Two years ago, she was travelling in New Zealand when she came across a couple who was collecting buttons sent by those affected by an abortion - the women, the men and even other family members. The buttons served as a memorial to the aborted babies.

She said: "There is no tangible way to remember the (aborted) babies and to grieve. Often, there is no closure. So I thought if we have this project here, people can see all the buttons and know they are not alone."


A screengrab showing the buttons and a painting, from Buttons Project Singapore. PHOTO: WWW.BUTTONSPROJECT.ORG.SG

In June, she started Buttons Project Singapore at www.buttonsproject.org.sg. So far, five people have sent her buttons, including one from a married woman who has three children. The woman's marriage was rocky and she felt she could not cope with another child.

Miss Bai and a group of women who have had abortions also started a support group on Sunday (Nov 12) to offer their friendship and support to women struggling to come to terms with their abortion. Although the women are not professional counsellors, Miss Bai believes that coming together helps others cope with what they are going through.

Ms Jennifer Heng, who counsels pregnant women in need of support, said Miss Bai's support group is the first of its kind here.

Miss Bai said: "I realised it gives people hope and strength when they realise they are not alone. I want to share that there is hope and healing after an abortion."