Thu, May 04, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Plan to liberalize abortions stalls

DIVIDED VIEWS Lawmakers disagreed on an amendment to make it easier for a woman to terminate a pregnancy because of the threat to her mental health or her family's life

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Members of the Legislative Yuan's Sanitation, Environment and Social Welfare Committee failed to agree yesterday on whether women must receive counseling and how long they should wait for a "reconsideration period" before having an abortion.

The Department of Health has proposed amending an article in the Genetic Health Law (優生保健法) which suggests that aside from cases of rape, women who become pregnant can only have abortions if they receive counseling that confirms that the pregnancy would severely damage their own mental health or their family life and if they take six days to mull over the decision.

The department wants to keep the counseling requirement but has suggested that the mandatory waiting period be reduced to three days.

Under the proposed amendment, women would be required to inform their husbands about their decision to have an abortion but they would not be required to obtain their spouses' signatures.

While some legislators said counseling and a six-day waiting period are necessary, others said that both are superfluous.

"The law that mandates counseling and time to reconsider an abortion discriminates against women," Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lee Yong-ping (李永萍) said. "It will only cause many women to avoid hospitals when taking care of pregnancy issues."

Lee said that women who want abortions often ignore the counseling requirement. She said there is a huge gap between concepts held by religious groups or individuals and those of the general public.

Requiring counseling, she said, would lead women to seek alternative medical treatment that could put their health at risk.

KMT Legislator Ho Tsai-Feng (侯彩鳳) was opposed to changing the law. She said that rough estimates indicate that 1,388 fetuses are aborted every day in Taiwan and she questioned why the health department wants to reduce the waiting period.

"Taiwan kills so many babies every day," Ho said. "Yet the Ministry of the Interior is trying to raise the birthrate. Why is there such a drastic policy difference between government agencies?"

Ho, however, cited no sources for her 1,388 per day figure, which would work out to more than half-a-million abortions annually.

The proposed amendment faces oppositions from religious groups, some of who staged a protest outside the Legislative Yuan yesterday.

Many women's rights groups, such as Taiwan Women's Link, criticized legislators who oppose the amendment, saying that the law treats women as if they are mentally challenged and unable to think for themselves.

The health department said that it would revise the amendment and send the revision to the Executive Yuan for review by the end of this month.

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