SINGAPORE - The number of abortions hit a historic low here last year, falling below the 10,000 mark for the first time in at least 30 years.
The Health Ministry told The Sunday Times that 9,282 abortions were performed last year, 13 per cent fewer than in 2012.
Last year's figure was also way below the peak of 23,512 in 1985. After pre-abortion counselling was made mandatory in 1987, the numbers fell steadily to an average of 12,000 a year for most of the past decade.
Gynaecologists and counsellors say the decline reflects the increasingly widespread use of contraception by Singaporeans.
The numbers would have been even lower, if not for a rising number of abortions on permanent residents and, especially, foreign women.
About six in 10 abortions last year were on Singaporeans, down from eight in 10 in 2003. Conversely, almost four in 10 abortions were on PRs and foreigners, up from two in 10 in 2003.
The foreign women who had abortions included maids, service industry workers, professionals, wives of foreign professionals and foreign wives of Singaporean men. They were from countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines.
There are practical reasons some choose to end their pregnancies.
Manpower laws bar female work permit holders, such as maids, from getting pregnant or giving birth here, unless they are wed to a Singaporean or PR with the Controller of Work Permit's approval. Those who become pregnant are not allowed to continue working here. Other foreigners have abortions as they are not married or do not want a baby to affect their job prospects here.
Dr Kenneth Wong, of Obgyn Centre, a private clinic, said: "Many of these foreigners have uprooted themselves to provide for their families back home and having a child is an inconceivable prospect to bear."
Ms Rose Boon, a volunteer with the Pregnancy Crisis Service which helps pregnant women in distress, said some wives of foreign professionals say they cannot cope with starting a family or having more children without family support.
Just over half of the abortions were on married women last year, while those on singles accounted for about 40 per cent.