Mon, Oct 30, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Amendment denies women's rights

Annie Lee, Lee Chao-huan, Luanne Li, Chou Yueh-ching, Chou Ching-yu, Chern Lai-hung, Hwei-syin Chen, Huang Chang-ling, Huang Shu-ling, Chang Chueh, Chang Yie-yun, Yang Fang-wan, Tsai Wan-fen, Liu Chung-tung, Vincent Hsieh and Su Chien-ling 李安妮、李兆環、李佳燕、周月清、周清玉、陳來紅、陳惠馨、黃長玲、黃淑玲、張芊玨、張懿云、楊芳婉、蔡宛芬、劉仲冬、謝臥龍、蘇芊玲

A number of the members of the Cabinet's Commission on Women's Rights Promotion (CWRP) who work for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) recently tendered their resignations after the Cabinet proposed a draft amendment to the Genetic Health Law (優生保健法).

We are writing this piece because we feel it's necessary for the public to gain a better understanding of the stance of the commission's NGO members.

Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said at the 25th session of the CWRP that the Cabinet would not propose any controversial bills to the legislature. Following the session, the Department of Health convened a meeting to discuss the issue but did not reach a consensus or even approach anything close to an agreement. This only goes to show that certain details of the amendment remain highly controversial.

The CWRP has on numerous occasions tried to make the government understand that it should take a more cautious approach when discussing a controversial bill such as the Genetic Health Law. Unfortunately, on Oct. 18 the Cabinet still gave its approval to this controversial amendment.

We would like to express our regret over its action.We believe that the major problem of this amendment is found in Article 11, which requires women who intend to have an abortion to consult with doctors, mandates a three-day reflection period and forces them to sign a written agreement.

We believe that the compulsory consultation and reflection period denies the ability of women to think independently and make their own decisions.

From the moment a woman learns that she is pregnant, the issues surrounding her pregnancy take the highest priority in her thoughts. Pregnancy is such a serious issue that women are well aware of the pros and cons of a decision whether to give birth or terminate the pregnancy, so they certainly don't walk into a clinic in a fog.

The health department fears that women will make careless decisions because they are not fully informed or are not old enough to understand their situation. This is nonsense. If the reflection and consultation period were mandated, it would only delay the inevitable.

What women need most is helpful guidance from professional and responsible obstetric medical teams, as well as gender equality, sexual education and reproductive health support centers. They do not need more restrictions placed on their ability to have an abortion, as this would only lead to more women turning to unsafe, alternative methods of terminating their pregnancy.

The UN and its subsidiary organizations, such as the Population Reference Bureau and the WHO, have repeatedly emphasized the need to ensure that women's rights are upheld.

If Taiwan passes a law that conflicts with this effort, it would only hinder the nation's effort to become a member of the UN or a signatory member of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

The law stipulates that minors must receive permission from their legal guardian to have an abortion. Since there is now no alternative legal procedure for these young women to get an abortion, they often turn to easily obtained illegal medications to terminate their pregnancy. This is the most troubling outcome of all.

While the intention behind adding a mandatory consultation and waiting period is good, it would only push women toward seeking illegal abortions. We believe that the recently passed amendment needlessly increases the difficulties for pregnant women and is a step backward for the Genetic Health Law.

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