Civic groups gathered yesterday to support "fetal rights" and to support new regulations that would curb the nation's growing abortion rate.
Since the legalization of abortion in 1984, the birth rate has continued to drop, suggesting that there was a "neglect of fetal rights" and raising concerns about future generations, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Yang Li-hung (楊麗環) said.
The changes would require consultation with a doctor prior to an abortion and a six-day waiting period after the consultation before an abortion can proceed.
The coalition, which included Louis Aldrich, dean of the Faculty of Theology at Fu Jen Catholic University, argued that the waiting period would allow women enough time to reflect on their circumstances and consider the options available to them.
The length of the waiting period for countries that have such a system is between five and seven days, but for Taiwan the groups decided six days would be an appropriate time span because it would include at least one day on the weekend.
"People are at work Mondays through Fridays, so they do not think about the issue. If one weekend day was included, they would have more time to carefully come to a decision," Yang said.
Department of Health figures say that between 230,000 and 300,000 abortions are performed in Taiwan each year.
Of European countries, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany have the lowest abortion rates, according to figures cited by the groups.
Belgium has a waiting period of six days before an abortion, followed by the Netherlands with five and Germany with three.
In Sweden and the US, where waiting periods do not exist, the groups said that abortion rates were much higher.
If Taiwan followed the European examples, 100,000 to 150,000 lives could be saved each year, the groups said.
The groups also said that gender equality was relevant to the problem of abortion. By no means should a fetus be aborted because of its sex, they said.
"It's about time Taiwan started paying attention to fetal rights," said Georgie Hsieh (解慧珍), president of Women For Life, a pro-life organization. "The fetuses are our future; they are life's biggest resource."
But "fetal rights" were not just about protecting the life of a fetus, Hsieh said.
"Women damage their bodies by having abortions. Families may be harmed. It's all these reasons," Hsieh added.