Parliamentary Speeches

Second Reading of the Stillbirths and Births (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill – Wrap-Up Speech by Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Social and Family Development

Published: 09 January 2024

1. Mr Speaker, I thank Members for their support and feedback on this Bill. Please allow me to address their questions and feedback in turn.

Naming of Stillborn Children

2. Firstly, to MP Jamus Lim’s question – yes, stillbirth registration is for all stillborns in Singapore, regardless of nationality. 

3. Mr Louis Ng asked whether parents can officially register a name for stillbirths that occur during the transition period before the provisions are operationalised. 

4. Under the new section 36A of the RBDA, parents with stillbirths registered in Singapore may apply for their stillborn child to be officially named when the provisions are operationalised, as long as the application to name the child is made within a year after the stillbirth. This time limit also applies to parents who have had stillborn children before the legal provisions are operationalised. 

5. I would also like to assure Mr Ng that ICA will ensure that the application process is sensitively designed and easy to navigate.

Foetal Viability

6. Mr Ng also asked about the steps that the Government is taking to ensure that parents have accurate, scientific information on foetal viability outside the womb. 

7. When parents are faced with the prospect of delivery before the infant is at full term, they will be counselled by their doctors. This includes information on the infant’s chances of survival and risk of severe complications, and takes into account the specifics of the case, such as any medical conditions the mother may have. Such counselling will help parents to come to an informed decision about the appropriate course of medical intervention. 

Tort Law

8. Mr Gan Thiam Poh asked about tortious claims, and expressed concern that a mother should not be deprived of an opportunity to file a wrongful death claim if the stillbirth was due to tortious conduct. 

9. We would like to assure the member that these amendments are not intended to, and do not, affect any existing legal rights or claims – including tortious claims – that a mother may have in relation to her stillborn child. 

Mandatory Insurance for Autopsies

10. Mr Gan also asked the Government to consider mandatory insurance coverage for autopsies after stillbirths.

11. Autopsy (or post-mortem examination) is not routinely offered for stillbirths, and the decision on an autopsy of a stillborn child is a personal decision by the parent. As this is a personal decision by the parent, parents may seek their own options to cover the cost. 

Assistance and Support for Parents with Stillbirths

12. Mr Gan Thiam Poh also asked about the practical assistance and support that could be provided to parents to cover the costs associated with the stillbirth.

13. We recognise that we need to support parents of stillborns. Our public maternity hospitals provide support for these parents. Parents may also be referred to a medical social worker, nurse, or mental health team for emotional and practical support, such as advice on financial assistance and counselling during the bereavement process.

14. In the Government’s desire to support families and employees, there is continuous engagement with employers and employees to look at how leave benefits can support better work-life situations, better productivity in the workplace and better overall well-being for employees. 

15. I would like to end off my speech by saying that the MHA has heard the views of Ms Mandy Too and all the other bereaved parents who had signed the petition, and who have shared their views with the MHA. When the MHA and the Government look into reviews, we do not look at it cursorily. When we say we will study something, we will commit to it and study it carefully, before committing to policy change and legislative change. As you would know, by October 2023, our systems were in place to start issuance of commemorative birth certificates, and the first certificates were issued to Ms Mandy Too’s twin daughters.  

16. We were also careful with publicity, as we did not want to make it look like it was compulsory. And different parents may also address infant loss differently. 

17. To date, 51 commemorative birth certificates have been issued. Like I mentioned, there have been parents who have reached out over email, over the phone, to ask for overnight issuance of commemorative birth certificates. When the ICA and the MHA undertake to look into policy change and effect legislative change, we make sure that we tackle all the nuts and bolts, so that when we decide to go ahead with these changes, we are able to meet the needs of bereaved parents. 

18. With that, Mr Speaker, I beg to move.