Tue, Sep 30, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Cabinet to vote on revised changes to Abortion Law

ADVISE, NOT CONSENT Under the amendments, married people will no longer have to get permission from their spouse before various surgical procedures

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Married persons will only have to notify their spouse if they decide to get an abortion, tubal ligation or vasectomy, instead of having to obtain their consent, if the Legislative Yuan passes draft amendments to the Abortion Law (優生保健法).

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

"After carefully discussing the controversial topic with experts and religious groups, we thought it was a better idea for married [women] to notify their spouse of their decision instead of making the decision on their own," a Cabinet official who asked not to be named told the Taipei Times

yesterday.

The official said the Department of Health reached the conclusion on Sept. 8 and is scheduled to hold a press conference tomorrow to make public details of the revised draft amendments.

The Executive Yuan had originally been scheduled to approve the amendments on Aug. 27, including one which would annul the article requiring married persons to obtain the consent of their spouse before getting an abortion, tubal ligation or vasectomy.

In a bid to stave off controversy, the Cabinet delayed the plan in response to the request filed by Department of Health Director General Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) during the weekly closed-door Cabinet meeting that day.

Chen said that he had requested the draft be withdrawn because of the controversy surrounding it, even though some of the articles have become obsolete since the law took effect in 1985.

After the Chinese-language media revealed details of the proposed amendments on Aug. 25, religious groups were quick to voice vehement opposition to the proposals while women's groups were equally vocal in welcoming the changes.

"We still thought there was time to solicit opinions from the public, especially from religious groups, regarding this topic," Chen said after requesting the delay.

Under the revised amendments, 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 proposed amendments also state 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.

Abortions would be allowed for women whose pregnancies resulted from forced sexual intercourse, sexual assault or intercourse between those people legally banned from marriage.

The amendments would raise the maximum fine for an unauthorized doctor who performed abortions, tubal ligations or vasectomies from NT$30,000 to NT$500,000.

A physician who performs an abortion on a woman who did not notify her spouse or go through the three-day waiting period would face a fine of between NT$10,000 and NT$50,000.

A doctor who performs an abortion or vasectomy on an under-age spouse without the consent of their legal guardian would also face the same fines.

The amendments include an article to penalize medical personnel who leak information about patients suffering from genetic disorders with fines ranging from NT$20,000 to NT$100,000.

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