Abortion has always been a controversial issue, with increasing attention paid to the schism between pro-life and pro-choice. Even in relatively conservative Asia, there are different attitudes to this sensitive topic.
Amongst my circle of guy friends who are mainly career-centric, they talk about abortion with barely any regard. And yes, most of them would just go ahead with abortion without hesitation.
Having heard all these arguments for pro-life and pro-choice, I felt that as a guy, choosing which side to support without finding out more would be naive. So, I decided to try to make some observations to take a more informed and empathetic stand.
To give some background information on the laws of abortion in Singapore, abortions are legal only if the pregnancy is less than 24 weeks. Currently, there is no legal requirement for parental consent for minors (under 16 years old). However, for those under 14 years old, a police report will be made as any sexual intercourse at that age will be considered rape.
Working on this subject was tedious, especially with the strict policy protecting the patients’ confidentiality. Obstacles came at me from every direction. I requested to observe the comings and goings at the waiting area of an abortion clinic but was unfortunately rejected. Sitting outside the colposcopy (examination of the cervix, vagina and vulva) suites also drew a lot of stares.
In Singapore, some obstetrics and gynaecology clinics also do abortions, on top of addressing the usual range of health-related issues in women.
My general association with abortion clinics initially was that they would be dingy, with cheap instruments and so on. This was probably due to various local TV dramas which showed a young female protagonist using up her measly savings to go for unorthodox methods of abortions.
But the age of cheap and illegal abortion clinics have long since died out. Today, we have suites adorned with lavish leather sofas and slow jazz playing in the background — it helps to make the experience less traumatic, I suppose.
I went into a clinic, thinking that the majority of the visitors would be teenagers; instead, most patrons were couples in their mid-30s and some were even older. It makes sense, considering that teenage pregnancy and abortion rates have dropped drastically since the early 2000s. Maybe our sex education has actually proven its efficacy.
Thoroughly scanning every individual who walked by (discreetly, I promise), I have to admit it was tough to tell which patients who visited the clinic were looking for an abortion. With the advent of the abortion pill, abortions at fewer than eight weeks mean that there isn’t a visible baby bump.
Definitely a plus point for those who are escaping the judging death stares of the diehard pro-life fanatics. You could easily blend in with the majority who are looking for a pap smear, just a regular checkup or menopause screening.
Throughout my teenage years of sex education in Singapore, we were taught that abortions were only surgical, and they were torturous for both parent and child. With gruesome images fed to us at such a young age, abstinence from sex altogether was, of course, the best and most preferable option.
Medical removal wasn’t included in our educational syllabus. The idea of medical removal is a lot less morbid than it sounds: it’s administered through Cytotec, more commonly known as the abortion pill. It’s only meant for pregnancies of less than eight weeks and you’ll have to get a prescription from your doctor.
Makes our sex education quite questionable, doesn’t it? Seems to me that it’s inherently structured to cultivate deep-rooted concerns towards the idea of sex and the complications that come with it.
There are expecting mothers coming in to check on the progress of their pregnancy yet at the same time, the very same doctors also handle abortions. The same hands that help to deliver a baby could also end a pregnancy.
As an outsider, this contrast seems to water down the complexities of life and death to a simple routine, or just a daily affair for someone working in this line. When it becomes too much of a routine and is taken too lightly, the ensuing negligence can lead to accidents like decapitating a baby’s head in the midst of child labour.
As a guy, with such news circulating around and with the stigma that revolves around abortions, it can be hard to imagine the pains and worries our counterpart has to undergo. Not every girl would feel comfortable to pour their worries out to us, and we often go about our daily lives oblivious to their issues.
For us guys, to decide whether to have an abortion by only considering our personal goals is too selfish. At the end of the day, whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, we still have to consider our partner’s stance.
And most importantly, we need to go through the journey WITH her, whichever choice she makes, because the journey is definitely not going to be an easy one.
Reflecting on this issue has made me much more grateful to my mother, and more understanding of the tough decisions that women have to make. I hope the recent Mother’s Day has provided each of us with the opportunity to extend our gratitude and appreciation towards not just mothers, but the tenacious women in our lives too.
Have you had personal experiences or hold strong opinions about abortion? We’d love to find out, so drop us a comment. We may not immediately be able to break the taboo on this controversial topic, but at least we can get some kind of dialogue going to stop people from pretending that this doesn’t happen in Singapore.
If you know anyone struggling with this difficult decision, please let them know that help is available.
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