Tubal ligation is the most common method of sterilization. It involves severing and tying a woman’s fallopian tubes to prevent eggs from being fertilized by sperm.1 A similar procedure for men is a vasectomy, where a male’s testes are severed and tied.2 Although there have been accounts of sterilization being performed as far back as the 19th century in Europe, it was only in the 1960s – with the invention of the laparoscope – that surgery methods progressed far enough to allow consistently safe outcomes.3
Rochelle N. Shain and Harold D. Dickson, “Characteristics of women most affected by the option of reversibility,” in Social Science and Medicine, Vol. 16 (1983), 1067-1077.
2 George Watts, “Vasectomy for Sterilization,” in The British Medical Journal 2, (1969), 119.
3 “Wanita kini boleh dimandulkan dalam masa lima minit saja,” Berita Harian, March 12, 1972.
Dilation and curettage is a method where the cervix is dilated and a curette – a metal rod with a handle on one end and a sharp loop on the other – is used to scrape out the tissue in the uterus.1 The danger in such a procedure was that it could perforate the uterine or cause infection.2 This method is now uncommon in abortion. The more common technique today is vacuum or suction aspiration. This method was pioneered in 1958 in China.3 It involves inserting a sterile cannula connected to a pump into the vagina. The pump creates a vacuum that is used to empty uterine contents.4 It is safer than using a current, but there is still a risk of excessive blood loss or perforation of the uterine.5
1P.G. Stubblefield, “Midtrimester abortion by curettage procedures: an overview,” in Jane Hodgson (ed.) Abortion and Sterilization: Medical and Social Aspects. (New York: Grune & Stratton, 1981) 277-281.
2 Angelo B. Hooker, Marike Lemmers, Andreas L. Thurkrow, Brent C. Opmeer, Hans A.M. Brölmann, Ben W. Mol and Judith A.F. Huirne, “Systematics review and meta-analysis of intrauterine adhesions after manual vacuum aspiration for early pregnancy failure,” Fertility and Sterility vol. 85:6, (2013).
3 Yuantai Wu and Xianzhen Wu, “A report of 300 cases using vacuum aspiration for termination of pregnancy,” Chinese Journal of Obstretics and Gynaecology, vol. 336, (1958), 447-449.
4 Forrest Greenslade, Janie Benson, Judith Winkler, Victoria Henderson and Ann Leonard, “Summary of clinical and programmatic experience with manual vacuum aspiration,” Advances in Abortion Care, vol. 3:2, (1993).
5 Vanessa K. Dalton, Natalie A. Saunders, Lisa H. Harris, Jennifer A. Williams and Dan I. Lebovic, “Intrauterine adhesions after manual vacuum aspiration for early pregnancy failure,” Fertility and Sterility, vol. 85:6, (2006).
Artificial insemination of animals had been carried out decades before the technology was applied to humans. In Singapore, early cases dated back at least to 1938 when artificially inseminated cows were born in the Singapore Dairy Farm.1 This was not particularly controversial and indeed considered advantageous to the livestock industry as pedigree cows often did not breed well in Singapore’s tropical climate. Artificial insemination also helped owners of pedigreed dogs in Malaya produce puppies when their movements were restricted by anti-rabies regulations in the end of 1940s.2 Singapore, in fact, developed artificial techniques for reproducing animals to the extent that by 1968, super guppies were bred here for export.3
1“Test-Tube Births in Singapore,” The Straits Times, March 27, 1938.
2 “Test-tube Puppies born in Ipoh,” The Straits Times, March 9, 1948.
3 “Singapore to breed super-guppies for export market,” The Straits Times, July 17, 1968.
Within the Muslim community in Singapore, there was little interest in artificial insemination until the birth of the first “test tube baby.” The baby, Samuel Lee Jian Wei, was born in 1983 at the Kandang Kerbau Hospital.1 The local papers covered the event quite extensively, touting his high technology birth.2 The interest in this particular baby could be attributed to a paradigm shift in reproductive technology. Before in-vitro fertilization, artificial insemination births refer only to conceptions done through injecting sperm into the vagina in order to increase gamete density at the site of fertilization so as to improve chances of conception.3 Test-tube babies born through in-vitro fertilization, on the other hand, took the process a step further by extracting the egg from the mother and sperm from the father for fertilization outside the womb. Samuel was the first test-tube baby conceived in this fashion and this was done five years after the first test-tube baby in the world – Louise Joy Brown – was born on 25 July 1978.4 Both babies grew up to be healthy, high-functioning adults.
1“First Singapore test tube baby due today,” Singapore Monitor, May 19, 1983, 1.
2 “Computerised cradle that rocks by itself a hit with test-tube baby,” August 14, 1983.
3 Willem Ombelet and Johan van Rohays, History of Human Artificial Insemination in Facts, Views and Visions in Obgyn, Vol.1 (2010).
4 “Born in test tube, raised in success,” The Straits Times, July 26, 2003, 1.