Drop in number of teenage abortions may be misleading

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 May, 2008, 12:00am

Registered doctors reported fewer cases of teenage abortions last year, but a charity organisation said the figures might be misleading as more young women had attended illegal clinics or had not sought any help.

The Department of Health was notified of 326 cases last year of abortions performed at registered clinics on unmarried women around the age of 16, a drop of almost 9 per cent from a year ago.

But Mother's Choice's pregnant girl services unit said the situation was much worse than suggested by the figures as more young women were attending mainland hospitals or clinics which turned a blind eye to teenage abortions.

In the year ended March 31, Mother's Choice received 2,854 inquiries concerning pregnancy - most of them from women aged under 18, up from 2,286 over the same period the previous year.

'I heard some clinics on the mainland are providing abortion services for free, charging only consultation fees,' said Mother's Choice social worker Suvan Law Sui-wan. 'They claimed they wanted to help these girls but I wonder if their intention might backfire.'

This month, a young woman was suspected of dumping an embryo outside a refuse-collection centre in Tseung Kwan O. In February, a 19-year-old woman who found she was pregnant attempted suicide after her boyfriend left her. Late last year, a schoolgirl, 14, threw her newborn baby out of the window at her Yuen Long home.

'Those who dare not seek help always pose the biggest problem, because there is no way we can reach out to them unless they come to us,' Ms Law said.

However, among women who decided to keep their babies, more were willing to raise the child themselves rather than send it for adoption.

Responding to a question raised in the Legislative Council yesterday, the Labour and Welfare Bureau said the government had not only stepped up promotion on sex education but more money had been allocated for regional clinics to care specifically for pregnant women who were viewed as being at risk at an early stage.

Bureau secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said on top of the HK$30 million allocated to the clinics, extra recurrent funding of HK$12.7 million would be spent on strengthening the clinics' staffing and facilities this year.

Mothers' days

In the year ended March 31, Mother's Choice received 2,854 inquiries concerning pregnancy

The number of births to mothers in Hong Kong under the age of 18 last year: 137