|Source: The Straits Times
||By: Liew HanQing
But others abort their babies on the quiet in order to keep their jobs
EVERY year, about 100 foreign maids here are sent home because they are pregnant – and this number could be far higher, if not for an unknown number who abort their babies in order to keep their jobs.
Maid agencies and social workers say that because becoming pregnant breaches the rules of their stay here, the abortions are done on the quiet, or sometimes, with their employers’ consent.
A Straits Times poll of 10 maid agency operators found that they encounter between one and three cases every year in which the maid is either sent home or continues working here following an abortion.
The 100 who are sent packing each year, a small fraction of the 196,000 foreign domestic workers here, are found out when they test positive during their six-monthly blood and urine tests.
Many who stop their pregnancies from coming to light take Cytotec, a prescription drug used to treat gastric ulcers. These pills can be bought from Lucky Plaza, as was reported in The Straits Times last week.
Some others ask friends or relatives back home to mail them abortion-inducing drugs ahead of their half-yearly checkups, said one maid agency.
Still others – “isolated cases” – go for legal abortions in “private arrangements” with their employers, who may perhaps have had these maids for a while and are unwilling to lose them, said Madam Monica Leong of Faith Employment Agency.
Going by the law, these employers must notify the Manpower Ministry (MOM) if their maids become pregnant. Their work permits must be cancelled, and the maids sent home. Employers who fail to do this risk losing the $5,000 security deposit they parked with the ministry.
Under MOM regulations, those on work permits cannot become pregnant or give birth here unless they are married to Singapore citizens or permanent residents, with the Government’s permission.
Although those who get pregnant are deemed to have breached the terms of employment, doctors are not legally bound to alert the MOM each time they perform an abortion, although the Health Ministry has to be given the names of all those who have had pregnancy terminations, said a spokesman for the Obstetrical and
Gynaecological Society of Singapore.
So who are the maids who get into this kind of trouble?
Maid agencies say they tend to be those who have been here for a while, who have days off or time on their hands; for the majority, the father of the baby is their boyfriend.
Maid agency operator Martin Silva, from Happy Maids Happy Homes, said: “We deal with experienced maids who have more liberties, such as mobile phones and more days off, so the problem is always there.”
He noted that of the 200 maids he places every year, one would be repatriated for this reason.
Mr Andrew Sim of Bluesky Employment Agency also handles about one case a year out of the approximately 500 maids he places every year.
He added that those from his agency who become pregnant are rarely allowed to stay on as employers send them home to avoid trouble.
The fear of being found out and sent back is likely what drives maids to induce abortions using drugs, said Ms Bridget Lew, president of the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home).
“They are afraid because if they see a doctor, there will be an official record of the abortion and they could be sent home,” she said.
One Indonesian maid, speaking from experience, said: “Getting pregnant is something we are always afraid of...We don’t want to be sent home or blacklisted from working here.”
She is one of the minority whose employers allowed them to continue working here after they underwent abortions, and she is grateful for being given “a second chance”.
Agencies like Maid-Power make it a point to educate their maids against getting pregnant.
Managing director Ivy Lee said: “We remind them that an unwanted pregnancy will complicate their lives and bring unnecessary hardship to themselves and their families.”