Abortion laws in Asia are considered progressive amidst the ongoing debate on the procedure. Most Asian countries pride themselves on offering access to this procedure. However, women from vulnerable communities and victims of sexual assault still find it difficult to access abortion.
In this article, you’ll read:
- The Downside of Abortion Laws in Asia
- The Accessibility of Abortion in Asian Countries
Abortion is a common health intervention and a medical procedure that ends a pregnancy. It is the termination of a pregnancy by removing or expulsion an embryo or fetus. Meanwhile, an abortion without intervention is a miscarriage or spontaneous abortion.
According to the Advocates for Youth, abortion is a part of people’s lives and has been throughout history. They said that abortion should remain legal. They added that those who desire so should be able to access safe abortion care in their communities.
There are many Asian countries where their laws allow to practice of abortion by legalising it. Unfortunately, laws are no longer the problem for some communities but their accessibility.
The Downside of Abortion Laws in Asia
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Most Asian countries are conservative and traditional among the other countries across the globe. They are often painted as restrictive and less liberal than Western countries.
However, when it comes to abortion, many Asian countries already legalised the risky procedure. Abortion is legal in many different societies in Asia like Singapore, South Korea, Indonesia, and Malaysia. They have other laws and varying conditions, but abortion is legal in their countries.
Dr Subatra Jayaraj is a sexual and reproductive health expert and the Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia president. According to him, Malaysian laws were “quite progressive” compared to laws in the United States. He also added that the debate in the US was not relevant to Malaysia’s Context.
The same thing also goes with Singapore; they haven’t noticed an immediate impact of the US debate on the city-state. Shailey Hingorani, the head of the research and advocacy at the women’s rights group Aware says the US debate does not impact Singapore.
Singapore’s Influence in Abortion Laws in Asia
In Singapore, abortion has been legal since 1969. It is one of the first countries in Asia that allowed this procedure. It includes family and financial conditions and pregnancy via rape or incest.
Prior to that, Singapore was only allowing abortion if the mother’s life was in danger. Luckily, the country’s laws have become “relatively progressive,” said Shailey Hingorani.
Singapore came to a certain point when abortion became their solution to reduce the nation’s birth rate. According to sociologist Tan Ern Ser, one of the reasons for legalising abortion is to help with population control.
While abortion rights benefited the country decades ago, Sociologist Tan Ern Ser points out the disadvantages of abortion. According to him, abortion becomes bad only if it contributes to declining birth rates in the country. People must consider that, at present, Singapore faces a struggle with a low fertility rate.
He also added that it could be a disadvantage when women started relying on abortion instead of using contraceptives. Sociologist emphasises that abortion is not a form of birth control.
The Accessibility of Abortion in Asian Countries
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Several Asian countries already legalised abortion. However, the rules of these abortion laws still vary. Aside from that, different prices only mean that it is not always accessible to all women.
In Malaysia, medical practitioners can decide “in good faith” to proceed with abortion up to the second trimester. However, the penal codes state the punishment for those who induce an abortion with a woman’s consent. These women might face imprisonment with a term of three years.
Dr Subatra Jayaraj emphasised that abortion should only be carried out if “it involves risk to the life of the pregnant woman or injury to the mental and physical health of the pregnant woman.“
According to Abinaya from the Women’s Aid Organisation, doctors were wary of carrying out abortions. As a result, women who were denied the procedure had to turn to illegal clinics. The consequences of women going to illegal clinics can be disastrous, said Abinaya.
In Singapore, women can have an abortion for any reason up to 24 weeks into their pregnancy. However, she still has to undergo counselling first before continuing with abortion 48 hours later.
Aware’s Hingorani said this “may inadvertently imply that seeking an abortion is morally wrong, inducing artificial guilt and regret.”
Additionally, it could also increase the overall costs by forcing multiple trips to the doctor.
Low-income women struggle to pay for the fees that could range from S$300 to S$3,000.
“This indicates that abortion is not equally accessible to all individuals in Singapore,” she said.
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