Singapore

Abortions hit record low last year

Greater use of contraception and easing of stigma of single mums contribute to decline

The number of abortions performed here dropped to 7,217 last year - believed to be a record low for Singapore - amid changing societal factors that counsellors said have pushed down the number of unwanted babies.

The number is 40 per cent lower than the 11,933 in 2007 and a far cry from the peak of nearly 24,000 abortions that were carried out in 1985. Abortions are legal for women up to 24 weeks into pregnancy.

Counsellors cited two factors in particular for the steady decline in abortion numbers, which is in line with trends in other developed countries: the greater use of contraception and easing of the stigma of single mothers.

Ms Jennifer Heng, who has been counselling pregnant women who need support, said the easing of the stigma has encouraged more unmarried women to keep their babies, even when their boyfriends do not want to do so.

She said the greater social acceptance and support shown to single mothers, such as changes to government policies, have all helped to ease the stigma.

For example, children of unwed parents are now included in a savings scheme, the Child Development Account, in which the Government matches the deposits parents make by up to $6,000.

"Now this fear and stigma of being a single mum is not as overwhelming as it used to be, and women feel they can... raise the child alone," said Ms Heng.

The number of abortions performed on women under the age of 20 fell dramatically from 1,363 in 2007 to 343 last year.

While the number of abortions fell steadily in the past decade, the number of babies born has remained more constant.

It fluctuates between about 38,000 and about 42,000 a year in the past decade, according to the report on registration of births and deaths 2016 by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA).

But the number of babies born to teenagers aged 19 and below also fell by more than half, from 820 babies born in 2007 to 332 babies last year, according to the ICA report.

Counsellors who work with young people said this is not because fewer teens are having sex; young people are just a lot more savvy about using contraception.

The MOH did not give The Straits Times any other breakdown of the abortion figures, such as by nationality or marital status.

But counsellors said foreigners, including foreign workers and married Singaporeans, make up a large proportion of the numbers.

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.

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