The Abortion Act to reform and liberalise the law concerning the practice of abortion in Singapore was passed by Parliament on 29 December 1969 and came into effect on 20 March 1970.
The Act provided for the creation of an 11-member Termination of Pregnancy Authorisation Board to authorise the treatment to terminate pregnancy by registered medical practitioners. Members of the board then comprised Ho Guan Lim, director of medical services and chairman of the board; V.M.S. Thevathasan, deputy director of medical services (health); Yeoh Seang Aun, deputy director of medical services (hospitals); Lee Beng Guan, director of social welfare; Lean Tye Hin, a senior obstetrician and gynaecologist; and Yap Meow Foo, a psychiatrist employed in the public service and five other members appointed by then Minister for Health Chua Sian Chin.
Under the Act, the board could authorise an abortion under defined circumstances, where: continued pregnancy would endanger the life of the woman or cause serious injury to her physical or mental health; there was substantial risk that the child, if born, would suffer from severe physical or mental abnormalities; the environment (including family and financial circumstances) of the pregnant woman was unable to support the raising of a child; or if the pregnancy resulted from rape, incest or other unlawful carnal connection.
The Act also provided for conditions under which the abortion could be performed by registered medical practitioners without the authorisation of the board. A registered medical practitioner could perform an abortion if the pregnancy was life-threatening or could cause serious physical or mental harm to the mother, provided that s/he acted in consultation with another registered medical practitioner and that the treatment was carried out in a government hospital or in an approved institution. However, these conditions did not apply in an emergency situation where an abortion had to be immediately performed to save the life of the patient.
The 1969 Abortion Act was reviewed in 1974 and further liberalised. The repealed Act made abortion available to any woman who wanted one and she would no longer require the approval of the Termination of Pregnancy Authorisation Board, which was scrapped under the new bill.
1. Republic of Singapore. Government Gazette. Acts Supplement. (1970, January 9). The Abortion Act 1969 (Act 25 of 1969, p. 121). Singapore: Govt. Print. Off. Call no.: RCLOS 348.5957 SGGAS; Republic of Singapore. Government Gazette. Subsidiary Legislation Supplement. (1970, March 14). The Abortion Act (Commencement) Notification, 1970. (S 89/1971, p. 165). Singapore: [s.n.]. Call no.: RCLOS 348.5957 SGGSLS
2. Government Gazette. Acts Supplement, 9 Jan 1970, p. 124.
3. Government Gazette. Acts Supplement, 9 Jan 1970, p. 124; Abortion rules come into force in a week. (1970, March 1970). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Government Gazette. Acts Supplement, 9 Jan 1970, p. 126.
5. Government Gazette. Acts Supplement, 9 Jan 1970, pp. 126–127.
6. Government Gazette. Acts Supplement, 9 Jan 1970, pp. 126–127.
7. Government Gazette. Acts Supplement, 9 Jan 1970, p. 127.
8. Saw, S-H. (2005). Population policies and programmes in Singapore (p. 50). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Call no.: RSING 363.96095957 SAW
9. Saw, 2005, p. 51; On demand. (1974, October 30). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at December 2015 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.