Tue, Nov 18, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Selecting the sex of babies banned in proposed law

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Prospective parents will be banned from choosing the sex of their children through abortions, except for medical reasons, under amendments to the Abortion Law (優生保健法) that the Cabinet is considering.

A previously proposed stipulation that women seeking an abortion should consult their doctors and undergo a three-day "reflection period," however, would be retained.

According to a Cabinet official who asked not to be named, the proposed ban was considered after religious and women's rights groups reached a consensus during closed-door discussions hosted by the Cabinet over the past few months.

"We have found this a difficult issue but we're glad that religious and women's rights groups finally reached a conclusion," the official said.

Women's rights groups had opposed the three-day "reflection period" but said they were not trying to encourage women to seek abortions.

"What we're trying to do here is to let pregnant women enjoy their inalienable right to decide for themselves when the pregnancy is not desirable," said Liu Chung-tung (劉仲冬), chairwoman of the Foundation of Women's Rights Promotion and Development.

Liu said the waiting period was unnecessary because pregnant women seeking an abortion would brood over the issue for some time before taking action.

"Besides, medical consultations conducted before an abortion are nothing more than trying to talk pregnant women out of seeking an abortion," she said.

Louis Aldrich, dean of the Faculty of Theology at Fu Jen Catholic University, said that although abortion should be banned, it was acceptable under certain circumstances.

"Our stance is clear: abortion shouldn't be allowed unless the pregnancy endangers the health of the mother and the baby and that the pregnancy results from forced sexual intercourse or incest," he said.

The Abortion Law stipulates that women seeking an abortion would have to prove that they or their spouse, or members of their immediate family, suffered from a genetic disorder or that they or their spouse suffered from a communicable disease, a rare illness or a mental disorder.

The law also states that any woman seeking to have an abortion would have to prove that the pregnancy would endanger her life, her mental or physical health, or that her baby would be born with a deformity.

Citing studies conducted by international medical institutions, Aldrich said that the "reflection period" is absolutely necessary.

"Studies show that 25 out of every 100 pregnant women have abortions in Sweden and the US where the reflection period is unnecessary, whereas only 10 out of every 100 pregnant women have an abortion in Belgium and the Netherlands, where a five- to six-day waiting period is mandatory," he said.

Despite Aldrich's proposal to extend the "reflection period" from three to six days, the Department of Health stood firm on its stance.

The amendments would annul an existing article requiring married people to obtain the consent of their spouse before getting an abortion, tubal ligation or vasectomy. They would only have to notify their spouse if they decide to do so.

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