26th March 2013
Some of the island republic's children are wanted more than others
Not having learned its lessons from the 1960s, Singapore is
continuing to practice a form of eugenics, encouraging high-income
parents to have more children while discouraging low-income parents from
doing so despite the fact that native-born Singaporeans have one of the
lowest total fertility rates in the world.
A Singapore physician, John Hui Keem Peng, recently wrote a letter to
the Straits Times in which he reminded us all of the existence of the
Home Ownership Plus Education (HOPE) Scheme. This ironically named
scheme provides support to low-income families, but only if they don't
have more than two children. Cash incentives are given out to couples to
fund ligation or vasectomy procedures.
In his letter, Hui wrote that he had come across a patient whom he had
seen for problems arising from complications of an abortion she
underwent a week earlier. Here is an excerpt from the letter:
"During the consultation process, it became clear to me that she was
hurting not just physically, but also emotionally. She told me that this
was not her first abortion, but her third. As she fought back tears,
she explained that she "had to" go through with the procedure as she was
on the Home Ownership Plus Education (Hope) Scheme.
"The scheme provides financial and material benefits to young,
low-income families that choose not to have more than two children. Once
they have more than two children, they are no longer eligible for the
benefits. I am sure my patient is not the only young parent in anguish,
and there are probably many others like her.
While the Hope scheme was conceived to help lower-income parents cope
with the high cost of living, we might have inadvertently lost a number
of Singapore citizens through abortions because of the conditions
attached to it. Should we discriminate against lower-income couples by
penalizing them for having more than two children?
Shouldn't we complement the scheme instead by putting in place programs
that help them build stronger marriages and become better parents? If
they decide they are unable to raise their children, why not provide
them with services to facilitate adoption? After all, there are many
childless couples in the long queue to adopt children. I am sure the
scheme was initiated with good intentions. The question we must now ask
is: Can we do better?
John Hui Keem Peng (Dr)
The Straits Times has also highlighted Singapore's policies on
abortion in a feature published on March 17 ('Experts feel the law could
be changed to make those seeking abortion think harder and longer').
The article states:
There is mandatory pre-abortion counseling if the women are Singapore
citizens or permanent residents; have passed the Primary School Leaving
Examination (PSLE); have at least some secondary education, and have
fewer than three children.
There is no counseling for foreigners, rape victims or Singaporeans with
three or more children, and those who have not passed the PSLE. If they
seek an abortion, they get it right away.
Although one may understand why there is no mandatory counseling for
rape victims, what is the rationale behind not counseling those who have
not passed the PSLE? (A reading of The Straits Times' article suggests that "mandatory counseling" should be interpreted as "trying to persuade you not to have an abortion.")
In the absence of justification from the relevant body who came up with
this policy, one can only conclude that while Singapore is very eager to
persuade more highly-educated mothers not to have abortions, they don't
really care about the poorly-educated. There is a strong suggestion
that the policymakers have ascribed different values to the offspring of
different Singaporeans even before birth.
This level of social engineering is hypocritical at best - especially at
a time when the government is desperately finding different ways to
cajole Singaporeans into having babies - and despicable eugenics at
worst. It is equally hypocritical at a time when the government has
agreed to expand the country's population by 30 percent to 6.9 million
by 2030, with immigrants making up nearly half of that figure.
Why are policymakers discouraging low-income, poorly-educated
Singaporeans from having children at a time when they are encouraging
the arrival of tens of thousands of foreign immigrants? Is Singapore's
Total Fertility Rate (TFR) not dismal? Are we not plowing money into
more and more "pro-family initiatives"?
Is this just the ugly laziness of a nation that does not want to be
responsible for children that may need more help and support from the
state? Do we really believe that every child is precious, or are some
children more precious than others?
Source: Asia Sentinel
(Kirsten Han blogs for Asian Correspondent, where another version of this appeared recently.)