The pro-choice movement in Asia: A retrospective

Dr. S. P. Choong. Founding Member, Asia Safe Abortion Partnership


As a founding member of ASAP,  I  am taken aback to suddenly realize that it’s been 10 years since we adopted the idea of a regional alliance for abortion rights. I guess it has been such an enjoyable and fulfilling ride for me to witness the growth of the pro-choice movement – in different countries, involving different professions and especially different generations.

Starting out as an individual abortion rights activist 50 years was a lonely business – facing stigma from friends and professional colleagues. No matter how strong our own internal convictions, it can still be stressful

Fortunately in Asia, unlike in the US, the anti-choice groups have not begun demonstrate and harass abortion clients right up to the doorsteps of abortion clinics. But there are now groups of pro-choice doctors there formed to meet up regularly for mutual psychological support.
I must confess that for a long time my self-introduction to strangers was as a director of a ‘family planning clinic’. Since building up advocacy networks through RRAAM in Malaysia and ASAP, I am now an up-front abortion rights activist. My view now is if we have self-censor our role as abortion rights activists, how can we possibly convince others of our cause. I hope all our younger activists can adopt that position.

The anti-choice movement has become so vocal and aggressive, it is important that everyone of us must as it were,  come out of the closet. Meeting colleagues in the pro-choice movement should make this shift in outlook move a lot easier for us..

Coming out as a pro-choice activist when meeting new people can be an interesting experience.  A good starting point in assessing the prejudices of the listener. And perhaps to initiate an interesting conversation!   And you may get some surprises on the way. People are not so bigoted on the abortion issue you may think.

A story told to me by Dr Susan Yanow made a point. When she casually mentioned her work on abortion to an air stewardess,  she was promptly upgraded to business class! So you never know your luck!  So try this out on new friends and colleagues at work and see their reactions.  Make it like a game!

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About Asia Safe Abortion Partnership

The Asia Safe Abortion Partnership is a regional network that promotes and advances women's reproductive and sexual rights across Asia. We are a prochoice network that works for women's right to safe abortion across the region.
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