Sat, May 13, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Hidden tears on Mother's Day

Tomorrow is the day to commemorate, if not actually remember, where it all started and offer thanks for the love and devotion that mothers provide.

But there is a very large group of women who will be doing their best to ignore it; many of those who cannot may well shed tears out of sight of friends and family, and are likely in their hundreds of thousands. They are the women who would have been mothers.

In this country, the abortion rate remains shockingly high. "Shocking" not because there is ever a pleasing rate of abortion, but because this is a developed country and that many more of these abortions are preventable.

The main villain is poor sex education. In most developed countries, teachers tend to be a progressive, liberal lot, and among their ranks in the education ministries and in the classrooms are those who are more than happy to provide education on sexual matters that most parents would wince at. In Taiwan, however, the education system has its roots in a mixture of social and political conservatism that encourages compliance rather than individual difference and cultivation. Though this is changing, the legacy of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) dogmatism and Democratic Progressive Party prudishness has not served young people well.

In a modern society, if parents are not educating their children and schools prefer to look the other way, then kids will learn about sex from their peers -- though this is not always a bad thing, because a child's wisdom is frequently underestimated.

There is one other major influence: the media and its facile TV dramas, explicit movies and leering exploitation in "family" newspapers and magazines. It would be unfair to say that there is no mention of birth control methods and sensible behavior in the media, but it is fair to say that it hardly competes.

The inevitable result of parental timidity or silence, school neglect and adventurous youth is a needlessly high rate of pregnancy. And in a society that still inflicts powerfully negative stigmas upon single mothers, abortion is the only practical solution for most.

It is pleasing to see that on matters of women's rights, there is frequently a bipartisan approach taken at the legislative level by female representatives, even if they rarely mobilize as a women's caucus.

Nonetheless, it is hoped there will be no more outrages such as school principals expelling pregnant students -- an act of gross misanthropy amplified by the fact that it takes place under state supervision.

The state that does not want to be labeled hypocritical or ill-willed must provide the following to students: mandatory, comprehensive sex education curriculums in all schools offering information on pregnancy, birth control and human relations; abortions on demand with counseling if requested; minimum standards of child support for single mothers and heavy punishment for individuals, companies or government agencies that discriminate against them.

One thing is clear: there is only delusion in the idea that modern society can exist without single parent births, and there is only misogyny in the approach of punishing women who do so -- while at the same time condemning them for escaping that fate and aborting their pregnancy.

A respectful, healthy society encourages all of its members to make the best of what they have and what they can do. It encourages women to have children secure in the knowledge that they will receive appropriate support and professional opportunity if the father does not meet his responsibilities. But it also delivers the option of safe abortion for women who cannot be given this guarantee and do not want to proceed.

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