Page 3, 27th July 1973

27th July 1973
Page 3
Page 3, 27th July 1973 — Japan's Unhappiest Anniversary

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Locations: Osaka


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Japan's Unhappiest Anniversary

Eugenic abortion ends in `koneko no naki' (kitten mewing)

By Fr. H. Van Straelen

Just 25 years ago, Japan became the first modern na tion to legalise abortion. How

has it worked and what are the results? Having spent 25 years

working in the country I. think I can claim to be qualified to give some of the sad and ghastly answers.

The Abortion Law, passed by the Japanese Diet in 1948, was

called the "Eugenic Protection

Law" and its purpose was described as: "To protect the in

crease of inferior descendants from the eugenic point of view, and to protect the life of the

mother." (Art. 1.) The Japanese Government has never promoted abortion for the sake of reducing population.

Three years later, in October 1951, the Cabinet called attention to the increase of abortions and the damage to health, In 1954, when the official number of abortions had passed the million mark (the real figure

was twice as high) the Ministr), of Welfare issued anotherwarning: "Induced abortion, which is widely prevalent today, is very

often followed by another pregnancy. Therefore, the operation must usually be repeated fre quently if it is to be effective for the limitation of births. This necessarily incurs undesirable effects upon the health of the mother.". Minoru Muramatsu: "Some facts about family planning in Japan."

bider women began to oppose abortion after seeing what happened, but the younger ones were confident and conformed to the tyranny of public opinion.

Perhaps as in no other country in the world, what was hailed as women's liberation brought utter slavery.

How often have I heard: "I still want another son and daughter, but I simply have to give in to the pressure of my relatives."

Gradually a datai no moedo, an "abortion mood" developed.

One of the first questions which are asked when pregnant mothers visit the gynaecologist is: bear it?" Elnrimasu ka? "Do you intend to Apartment managers enforced a policy of no more than two children. The whole atmosphere has changed. What a difference from pre-war Japan, when the Emperor (with seven children of his own) had been accustomed to send congratulation gifts to families upon the arrival of the 10th child!

Now one can even say: From the time the law permitted

the Japanese woman to abort her child, she does not find herself free not to abort it. Women's lib in reverse!

Legal abortion became a substitute for contraception. Dr. Tet suo Honda, of the Institute of Population Problems, Ministry of Welfare, estimated in 1950 that abortion accounting for threequarters of the births prevented, contraception for only a quarter. Later the rate changed to two thirds by abortion and a third by contraception. (Incidentally oral contraceptives are not permitted in Japan except for purely research purposes.) Many observers hoped that more successful contraception could be expected and that this would eventually eliminate abortions. But Dr, Ayanori Okazaki claimed the very opposite; that the wide use of contraception was it self responsible for the abortions. The anti-baby overtones of the contraception campaign are a chief cause of the abortion plague. Nqtwithstandine the enormous numner of abortions some 55.000,000 from 1948 to 1973) most Japanese feelashamed oi their so-called "abortion paradise" and prefer to sweep

abortion H o would carpet. usl dt statistics bstei cpsossui bnideenro t the feel ashamed it one knows that

hundreds of thousands of viable foetuses are taken out fully alive — perfect little children —placed into little containers until they stop moving and crying: Koneko no naki (kitten mewing) as they call it. (Nurses are not permitted to hasten the child's death.)

I could give here examples of some abortoria work in Japan which would make one's hair stand 'on end. The general public is spared from details about these operations by a discreet blanket of silence pulled over this phase of medical work,

My colleague at Nanzan University, Dr. A. Zimmerman, who for many years has studied the abortion situation in Japan, wrote in his article: "Abortion Paradise": "Since about 6,000 abortions are performed daily, of which a sprinkling are viable, reports sometimes leak out.

"A sensation was created when 50 foetuses were found in a ditch in Osaka by children who were playing.

"According to one report the babies were six to seven months old. The story was carried by nationwide television and newspaper coverage. The next day a man went to police headquarters and admitted that it was he who had tossed the foetuses into the ditch.

"He explained that he was wort ing for a funeral agency, and was supposed to deliver them to the crematorium. Because he had trouble with the trailer of his bicycle, and under the influence of alcohol, he took this easy way out.

"The mothers had already been notified that cremation was completed; his crime was failure to deliver the babies according to contract."

I could of course write pages and Imes about the damage done to the physical health of the Japanese women. Still greater is the damage inflicted to their mental health. Some 30 years ago (I was at that time assistant secretary of a Japanese Christian Women's Association) I found them so feminine, so delicate, so womanly, so full of motherly love and the spirit of sacrifice.

Now they are nervous, depressed, full of psychological problems and steel hard in their mental make-up. Nowadays one reads in the papers about things which before the war practically never happened — women abandoning and even the killing of their own babies, Is abortion in Japan part of the fight against over-population? By no means. There was some talk about labour surpluses in the immediate post-wa' days, but now the picture is entirely different. There is now a great labour shortage, especially of skilled labour.

Some ten years ago Dr. R. Komiya, Professor of Economics at Tokyo University, voiced the opinion that the sudden drop of birth-rate would create a labour shortage. This has now materialised.

At a round-table discussion of professional and religious leaders in Osaka in January 1961, a participant raised the question of Japan's optimum population limit. He said: "Japan is mountainous and small in size; there must be a ceiling beyond which population ought not to rise."

This remark made another participant see red. He said: "This optimum is less like a ceiling than a rainbow. A ceiling is a rigid top imposed from outside, but a rainhow keeps moving towards the horizon when you try to reach it.

"An optimum population is not a rigid quantity, but a fluid concept; it changes constantly as people build living facilities and economics move forward."

flow true this is! For two and a half centuries Japan kept its population at some 23 million, because they could not feed more people. Now Japan has a population of nearly 108 million, and living standards have never been so high.

Dr. P. lijima, former chairman of the giant Asahi Broadcasting Company and author of a sizeable shelf of books on economies, said in an interview: "If there are not enough houses, the situation is properly called a housing shortage, not over-population.

"If more roads, subways and trains are needed, let's build them instead of reducing customers. There never was, and there is not now, a call for a birth-control policy in Japan."

The opposition to the Abortion Law becomes every day stronger. Already in 1963 Aenator Shizue Kato had pledged to bring about its repeal during that year's Diet session. But she did not succeed. In March 1967, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Sato, ordered tighter control on abortions.

He declared that fundamental respect for life was the very foundation on which the nation rested and that this was an even greater reason to oppose abortion than were the problems of maintaining the labour force.

"Whether a life has, already been born, or whether it still exists as a foetus, our way of thinking about life must be one. of profound respect," he said.

Only the future can tell us _how far these principles will be put into practice.

Fr. Van Straelen, S.V.D,, is Professor of Philosophy at Nanzan University, Nagoya, Japan.

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