Discouraging abortion 'should not be solution'

SINGAPORE - Discouraging abortion and encouraging couples to adopt should not be seen as the solution to Singapore's fertility challenge, said Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing yesterday.

He said it is "a very difficult and tricky topic", and social-service agencies that provide abortion counselling have told him that it is tough getting a woman to consider going through a pregnancy only to later give the child away.

He was responding to calls from at least four Members of Parliament (MPs) who urge the Government to look into helping unwed women who are pregnant.

Currently, there are an average of 12,000 abortions a year - half of them from married women. There are 400 adoptions a year. "Even if we are able to save only 10 per cent of these abortion cases, that would mean 1,200 more babies in our midst," said Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC).

Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) said: "I strongly believe that, if adoption is publicised as a comforting, loving, nurturing and voluntary alternative, there will be a reduced number of abortions in Singapore."

Mr Chan said there are mea- sures to counsel women on the risks and implications of an abor- tion, and written consent must be given after a cooling-off period. The ministry will help women make informed choices, but "the decision to carry a baby to term or abort (it) is ultimately a deeply personal one".

However, unwed single parents will soon stand to benefit. Childcare and infant-care leave will be extended to this group from May 1.

This means that, like other parents, they will get six days of childcare leave annually if they have children below the age of seven, and two days if they have kids aged between seven and 12.

They will also enjoy six days of unpaid infant-care leave a year if they have a child below the age of two.

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