Sunday, August 22, 2004

Sunday Times columnist joins abortion debate 

The abortion issue was resurrected in The Sunday Times today (see my earlier post “Abortion law draws defective debate”).

Chua Mui Hoong writes:

My concern is whether Singapore society is too lax on abortion: When we make it such a simple option, it becomes the default choice...the calculations are so easy... a short, 15-minute procedure is simpler to go through than a lifetime of raising a child, especially a child who might be disabled... But that calculation ignores what abortion means: the aborting of a life.

I don’t want to judge women who choose to abort rather than risk having a disabled child. Neither do I want to judge women who choose to abort simply because they feel it’s their body, and their choice. I just want to ask them two questions.

One: Abortion is your choice, but how about what the baby wants? After all, who will protect your baby’s right to life, if not you?

Two: Even if you don’t want the baby can you find it in you to love the baby enough to give him or her a chance at life? Carry the child to full term, and then, if you still cannot raise him yourself, put him up for adoption.

At least give him a chance at life.
These points are in the same vein as those already made by the previous letter-writers and, like the latter, don’t really address the questions: Can we force parents to have a child known to have defects such that he/she will be a major burden? If the parents have no means to support this child, what can they do?

Furthermore, her two questions don’t really have the easy answers that she seems to think they have.

On her first question: How about what the baby wants? Who will protect your baby’s right to life, if not you?

This is an academic and rhetorical question. Who knows what the baby wants? Even if we do, the correct question should be: what is good for the baby? Society has never really accepted the idea that we should give babies what they want, but rather, what parents think that babies should be given.

As for the baby’s right to life, who says that there is such a thing? In a society with the death penalty, the right to life is not a given; it is always contingent on the individual’s impact on the rest of society.

On her second question: Can you give him or her a chance at life? If you cannot raise him yourself, put him up for adoption?

I suspect Chua didn’t think through this one before she wrote it. Raise a child, and if you find him troublesome, dump him on someone else? What kind of a suggestion is that? Which adoption home is going to accept the child?

This is not to say that I am necessarily rejecting her suggestions. Her suggestions are ones that should be borne in mind, especially before a woman decides to go for an abortion.

But the whole abortion issue involves many medical, societal and individual factors and is much more complicated than a casual reading of her piece would suggest.


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