Abortion in Japan after 25 Years
from Medical World News, November 9, 1973
Rising from the ashes of World War II, Japan has produced the economic miracle of the 20th century. To help make that miracle possible in its hungry overcroded islands, the Diet passed a liberal abortion law in 1948, as a means of holding the population down.
But on the 25th anniversary of that law, a saddened Japanese physician told colleagues from nearly 50 nations that his country's abortion policy has had some unfortunate consequences: Abortion is replacing contraception, and Japan has too few young people to care for the growing proportion of its population over 65.
"Abortion has become a way of life," Prof. T.S. Ueno of Tokyo's Nihon University told the Ninth Congress of the International Academy of Legal and Social Medicine, in Rome. "Moral life has become disorderly. It is an age of free sex, and the life of the unborn is not respected. We can now say the law is a bad one."
Japanese physicians, Dr. Ueno said, can receive a "designation" to perform abortions after a two-year "apprenticeship." A doctor having this designation may operate if in his judgment "the mother's health may be affected seriously by continuating of pregnancy or delivery, from the physical or economic viewpoint."
A year after the "Eugenic Protection Law" was passed, 250,000 legal abortions were done, Dr. Ueno reports; last year no fewer than 1.5 million were done.
"Abortion has become a substitute for contraception," he says, "About half the Japanese women who have abortions admit that they did not even try to prevent conception. Induced abortion has become so common it is almost compulsory for many women; they feel it is a part of life in Japan that can't be helped. Some apartment house managers enforce a policy that no family in the building may have more than two children. Pregnant mothers are often asked by their gynecologists whether or not they intend to carry the child to term. The entire economy has hardened around the two-child family."
Many Japanese are ashamed of having abortions, he suggested. Public opinion surveys suggest that most Japanese women do not approve of abortion even though they practice it. Only 18% of women surveyed said that they "did not feel anything in particular" after their first abortion, 35% "felt sorry about the unborn child," and 28% felt they had "done something wrong," Dr. Ueno told the congress.
"Induced abortions are a source of easy income for doctors," he charged. "Cash is paid, so they don't have to be paid through health insurance; many find abortion to be a convenient source of side income."
He also charged that legal abortions are "not remarkably safer" than illegal ones. He believes that the sudden change from pregnancy causes an imbalance of the sympathetic nervous system and has many other ill effects. Among them: dysmenorrhea, sterility, habitual spontaneous abortion, extrauterine pregnancies, cramps, headache, vertigo, exhaustion, sleeplessness, lumbago, neuralgia, debility and psychosomatic illness, perforation of the uterus, cervical lesions, infections, bleeding, and retention of some tissue.
Another consequence of 25 years of abortion, according to Dr. Ueno: Japan has 14 million people over 65 among its population of 108 million. In the next 20 years the over-65 population is expected to reach 29 million, of a total of 180 million Japanese. Because this means too many old people for the young to support, he predicts strong pressure for euthanasia.
"Easy abortion has been a bad experience for us," he told MWN. "It is now very difficult to control or to eradicate, despite growing criticism. It has become a way of life; the law might be changed but the practice cannot be controlled.
"The sooner Japan returns to a solid law which forbids the taking of the life of the unborn, the better for our nation. Just as we need guard rails, signal lights, and speed limits, so we need precise laws governing abortion. We need such laws to save us from our individual and collective weakness," he concluded.
These comments, made 25 years ago, are still timely today. Japan still practices widespread abortion. It is evident from this information that abortion is not an issue of women having freedom of choice. They feel compelled. Furthermore, the doctor notes that complications are serious and frequent. Japan is an industrialized country with a high standard of living, and this means that there is no economic reason why abortion should be unsafe. Furthermore, Japan has no local religions that act to cause women to feel guilty from having abortions, so their feelings are purely innate, and result from their womanhood. In recent years, it has become common for Japanese women to erect memorials to their aborted children.
Far from being a liberating experience, it is obvious that for Japanese women, it is enslavement.
The problem of being compelled to have no more than two children is not limited to Japan. Singapore enacted harsh penalties against having too many children some years ago. When the results of the policy became evident, they loosened the law; it was obviously detrimental to their society. Furthermore, in a personal conversation with a woman from Germany, I learned that housing forfamilies with more than one child is extremely scarce. Germany and other European nations are well below ZPG, and the economic consequences caused these nations to import Arab workers and their families. These people are not granted citizenship, however, and this includes children born on European soil. This is a disaster in the making, because the people are not happy about being denied citizenship. Because so many Arabs practice the Moslem religion, which in their cultural context is very harsh and warlike, and because the women are virtual slaves, this bodes ill for the future stability of Europe and for women's rights there.
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