Reproductive Health in Japan

Japanese reproductive situation seems very different from those of other nations. It sure is. But it is not the exotic mistery that makes ours different. Now, let's exchange the views on sexuality, life, pregnancy, abortion, child-rearing etc... I will try to explain our situation. Would you please let me know yours?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Silence among Japanese over abortion issues

As Masahiro said, Japanese women have mostly remained silence on the topic of abortion except the two occasions, when some conservative politicians tried to change the law to limit the accesibility of the legal operation in 1970s and 1980s. At those times, Japanese feminists called for the necessity of safe and legal abortion, but after the failure of the bill the women's voice became inaudible.

It is hard to pinpoint the reason for this silence, but one of them is surely the frame of discussion for abortion issues in this country. For example, after bioethics was formally introduced here in late 1980s, almost all the talks over the issue fastened on the binary opposition, as the problem between fetuses and women. You can claim such a frame of thinking itself presuppose that a fetus is morally equal to the woman who carries it. This is certainly a pro-lifer's view.

However, there is virtually no objection from the pro-choice league in Japan. There is virtually no alternative way of viewing this problem here in Japan. Why? Guilt may be one reason, but the guilt of abortion for Japanese women is not the one based on Christianity. Instead, it is their inner bind of the idealized motherhood, I should say, that is working here.

The strong motherhood spell for Japanese women has been, and is constructed by many cultural, historical, social, political and/or psychological reasons. I know abortion is a kind of taboo in other nations, too. But Japanese case can serve as an extreme in many ways.

Japanese government allowed its people to use abortion as a family planning method in the aim of limitting the population just after the World War II, but never has it allowed women to choose abortion for their health! And as I told Japanese women little complained about this situation. Instead they pacify their guilt through "Mizuko-kuyo," a modern ritual which became famous among Western scholars by the work of William LaFleur. In the context of this ritual, the women blame themselves and ask the fetus pemission for the "sinnful" conduct as a "mother." From such a mentality, they can never and ever claim their right for such a conduct.

This is only part of the whole problem, however. It is hard to extricate this long-time undiscussable issue, but I think we must challenge it for the better reproductive health for us and our future generation. And I wish our experience could serve a good example for other nations, too.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Almost no abortion counseling system in Japan.

As I answered Masahiro in the comment for the previous entry, most(if not all) of the American and British abortion providers have mental care system including pre- and post-procedure counseling as far as I know. Most providers are operated by pro-choice groups in those nations. That may explain their policy are, in a way, women-centered. Besides, In these nations, the abortion counseling fee is usually covered by medical assurancem, or at least, there seems to be some system to help financially the women who need such counseling. (But, the policy of American Medicaid providers differs a lot, I hear.)

As for European systems, I know Germany has such mandated counseling system as Masahiro mentioned. I once read an article which blamed the German mandated abortion counselings as they were rather relieving women from guilt and brought them to "decide" the abrtion not to avert it. That means even the mandated system can help the women's psychological and mental health sometime. There is no such system in Japan.

A Dutch professor and his wife once told me that they do not have public system to help women mentally but there is a self-help group to offer psychological care to the women. In Japan, however, if a woman gets in psychological problem due to abortion, she must find a way out by herself. Unfortunately, there is no women's group known to help such a woman. Even the nurses are not trained for help women in need of abortion.