The Story In 60 Seconds
- Singapore’s laws currently legalise abortion for any woman who requests it – making the Republic one of only three countries in Southeast Asia to allow for abortion upon request by a woman.
- The abortion law in Singapore is applicable to:
- Singaporeans and women married to Singaporeans;
- Holders of a valid work pass, or is the spouse of someone holding a valid work pass; or
- A resident of Singapore for at least four months before the procedure.
- If you are none of the above, but an abortion is necessary to save your life, then the procedure will still be legal.
- In general, abortions are only allowed to be carried out when the foetus is less than 24 weeks old, unless there are exceptional medical circumstances.
- It is also illegal to force, compel or intimidate a woman into having an abortion.
With the Abortion Act coming into effect on 20 March 1970, abortion was made legal in Singapore under most cases, but it was only in 1974 that the law was further liberalised, and abortion was made legal and available to any woman who wanted one. According to the United Nations World Abortion Policies 2013, Singapore’s current Termination of Pregnancy Act (“the Act“) makes the Republic one of three countries in Southeast Asia that legally allows for abortion upon request by a woman, with the other two countries being Vietnam and Cambodia.
Does this law on abortion only apply to Singaporean women?
Currently, the Termination of Pregnancy Act states that abortions may only be carried out with the written consent of the patient by an authorised medical practitioner in an approved institution for women who meet the following criteria:
- The woman is a Singapore citizen or is the spouse of a Singaporean;
- The woman is the holder of a valid work pass or is the spouse of someone holding a valid work pass;
- The woman has been a resident in Singapore for a period of at least 4 months preceding the medical procedure.
However, even if a woman does not meet any of these criteria, it would still be legal to carry out an abortion in Singapore if the procedure is necessary and urgent to save the life of the pregnant woman.
Currently, there is no defined age limit for the procedure, nor is it legally required for minors to seek parental consent for the procedure if they are under 21. Additionally, while the law does not mandate it, the Ministry of Health has imposed a requirement for women seeking an abortion that they must undergo personal counselling and a 48-hour cooling-off period. Unmarried minors under the age of 16 are required to attend pre-abortion counselling at the Health Promotion Board Counselling Centre.
What are the penalties for flouting this law?
Any person who does not meet the criteria or exception listed in Section 3 of the Termination of Pregnancy Act, but violates the law would be subject to a fine of up to S$3,000, or imprisonment for a maximum of 3 years, or both. Also, if both the pregnant woman and the person assisting her in the abortion do not meet the criteria listed in the Termination of Pregnancy Act, then both persons would be punished under the Act.
Are there any limitations to the abortion law?
Section 4 of the Termination of Pregnancy Act states that no abortion procedure should be carried out if the pregnancy is more than 24 weeks old unless the treatment is necessary and urgent to save the life of the woman, or to prevent grave permanent injury to the mental or physical health of the woman.
- The Courts recognise two ways of determining the duration of the pregnancy: Either by clinical examination; or it may be calculated from the first day of the last normal menstruation of the pregnant woman to the end of the 24th week.
Someone else is forcing me to undergo an abortion – is this illegal?
Absolutely, no one can coerce, intimidate or force you to undergo an abortion without your consent. Anyone who does so is guilty of a crime under Section 5 of the Termination of Pregnancy Act, and he/she could be subject to a fine of up to S$3,000, or imprisonment for a maximum of 3 years, or both.
I am a medical professional, and I do not support abortion. Can I refuse to perform the procedure?
Under Section 6 of the Termination of Pregnancy Act, you are allowed to refuse to perform the procedure if you have a conscientious objection. You are not bound by contract, or by any statutory or legal requirement to participate in the procedure if you do not want to do it.
That being said, you must carry out your duties to perform the abortion procedure if it is necessary and urgent to save the life of the woman, or to prevent grave permanent injury to the mental or physical health of the woman.
Are there any other resources I can refer to?
If you would like to find out more information about the abortion procedure, you can refer to the Ministry of Health’s Guidelines on Termination of Pregnancy or Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE).
If you are under the age of 21, you may wish to speak to Babes – a service that provides 24-hour support for teenage girls in a pregnancy crisis.
Need legal advice?
If you have any questions on abortion in Singapore and need legal advice, you can get a Quick Consult with Rajan Chettiar or with other lawyers. With Quick Consult, from a transparent, flat fee from $49, a lawyer will call you on the phone within 1-2 days and give you legal advice.
This article is written by Rajan Chettiar from Rajan Chettiar LLC and edited by Chee Seng Tang from Asia Law Network.
This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to practicing lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Interstellar Group Pte. Ltd. accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.