Mon, Jan 24, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Activists laud abortion proposal

ADULT CHOICES Women's rights groups hailed a proposal that seeks to amend the Genetic Health Law, and would lower the legal abortion age from 20 to 18 years old

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Women's rights activists yesterday praised the proposed revision to the Genetic Health Law (優生保健法) to lower the legal abortion age from 20 to 18.

While the draft empowers young women to make decisions for their own bodies, women's groups said appropriate sexual education is the best solution to the issue.

"Criminal Law defines adulthood as people above 18 years old. So I think women at this age should be able to make their own decisions, including whether or not to get an abortion," said Su Chien-ling (蘇芊玲), director of Taiwan Gender Equity Education Association.

Su said that along with granting young women abortion rights, precautionary measures such as more sex education and safe-sex promotion should be a priority. In addition, authorities need to find related solutions, including setting up more certificated abortion clinics and regulating abortion fees. It is important to know that abortion should be the last choice, according to Su.

The Bureau of Health Promotion submitted a draft revision of the Genetic Health Law to the Executive Yuan earlier this week, lowering the age threshold of legal abortion to 18. Every year, about 10,000 to 15,000 girls between 18 and 20 years old will be able to seek legal abortion under the new draft, the bureau said.

Tsai Wan-fen (蔡宛芬), secretary general of Taiwan Women's Link, said that lowering the legal abortion age will greatly reduce unsafe abortions and protect women's human rights.

"Illegal abortions have particularly serious health implications for young women. Liberalizing the age threshold of legal abortion enables these girls to seek medical help legally, and reduces abuse of medication that induces abortions," Tsai said.

Another regulation in the draft, which requires a five-day consideration period after women's first visit to abortion clinics, and before any abortion decisions been made, draws serious criticism from women's groups.

"The consideration period denies women's ability to think independently. It also carries implications that women who seek abortion do not take it seriously, said Chang Chueh (張玨), an associate professor of Public Health at National Taiwan University.

Chang said that women with an unwanted pregnancy, regardless of age, must seriously consider whether or not to get an abortion. But it is ridiculous to tell women how long they should take when considering an abortion, Chang said.

Further, requiring women to visit doctors at least twice before they can get an abortion actually allows hospitals to make more money, Chang said.

"I think most women who decide to get abortion have already talked with their parents or partner beforehand. Asking [women] to receive more than one consultation adds to their hardship," Chang said.

She also urged the authorities to provide more sex education to teenage boys. Chang said that it is unfair to put all the pressure on young women, which are often victims of immature sexual relationships. Educating young men about safe sex and healthy relationships may also help prevent unplanned pregnancies.

Under the current Genetic Health Law, women under 20 years old need their parent or guardian's consent before they can have an abortion in a hospital. According to the bureau, many girls choose to keep their pregnancy a secret and resort to abortion pills such as RU 486, which can be fatal if used improperly.

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