I was touched by the Koh Sui Tin Forum writer’s story of how she looked after her child with Down syndrome, and agree that there is a need for more balanced information on Down’s syndrome relayed by doctors to parents (Happy not to have listened to the doctor’s advice and kept my son with Down’s syndrome, May 7).
Singapore is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, having ratified the convention in 2013.
The government has an obligation to provide people with disabilities with equal and effective legal protection against discrimination on all grounds.
According to the convention, persons with disabilities include “those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which, in interaction with various obstacles, may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis. with the others”.
In Singapore, abortion is allowed for any reason up to 24 weeks gestation.
Thereafter, a pregnancy can only be terminated if it is “immediately necessary to save the life or to avoid serious permanent damage to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman”.
In its initial report to the convention committee, the Singapore government said: “Disability of the unborn child alone is not a reason for allowing an abortion beyond 24 weeks’ gestation.”
At the same time, the Guidelines on Termination of Pregnancy issued by the Ministry of Health provide that the content of pre-abortion counseling “may be adapted for women diagnosed with fetal abnormalities”.
I have great respect for the many healthcare professionals who make difficult life and death decisions on a daily basis. Yet, in such a decision, the inherent worth and dignity of people with disabilities must be respected.
Health care professionals and pre-abortion counselors should be careful not to present a one-sided poor prognosis for fetal abnormalities.
Instead, attention should be drawn to the many meaningful and fulfilling lives that people live regardless of their physical, mental, intellectual or sensory disabilities. Families should also be informed of possibilities for social support.
Acceptance of people with disabilities must start in our hearts and minds.
As a society, we must recognize that the beauty of humanity does not lie in being physically “perfect”, but in our immense ability to overcome life’s challenges, whatever their form.