Tue, Oct 24, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Abortion activists oppose changes to rules on abortion

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Abortion advocates held a press conference yesterday to voice their opposition to the Cabinet's proposal to amend the Genetics Health Law (優生保健法) and counter attacks by a religious alliance of anti-abortion groups.

Su Chien-ling (蘇芊玲), chairwoman of Taiwan Gender Equity Education Association, said that the Cabinet's proposal represents a huge setback in promoting women's rights.

The proposal, if passed, would compel all women seeking an abortion to wait for three days after consulting a doctor before making a decision. Violators will be subject to fines ranging from NT$30,000 to NT$150,000.

Su said that the proposed amendment assumes that women make "hasty" decisions when they decide to have an abortion.

"But is that so?" Su asked.

Approximately 80 percent of the women who had abortions in the past said they had thought about it for at least four days before making a decision, Su said, citing a survey conducted this year by the Taiwan Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology of 647 women who had abortions.

She added that more than half of the respondents said they had thought about it for more than a week before going through with the abortion.

"We certainly hope that women and their families have thought it over carefully before deciding whether or not to have the baby," said Lee Jai-yan (李佳燕), managing director of the Kaohsiung branch of the Awakening Foundation.

What the pro-abortion groups could not accept was the government's attempt to regulate women's minds, forcing them to think twice even if they had already thought over the choice carefully before seeing a doctor, she said.

Although the government's aim in amending the regulation is to offer women more time to consult experts on what choices they may have or what the consequences of abortion may be, regulated counseling is not guaranteed to be effective, the groups said.

Forcing people to seek consultations will never work, said Chi Hui-jung (紀惠容), chief executive officer of the Garden of Hope Foundation.

Instead, volunteers in hospitals should offer women who are seeking abortions "friendlier counseling services" or refer them to public resources or services that they might need.

An easy-to-remember consultation hotline for pregnant minors should also be established, she said.

The Cabinet's proposal last week stirred heated debate between several women's rights groups and an alliance of more than 1,300 religious groups in the print media and on the Internet over the past few days.

The pro-abortion groups said the proposal was a violation of a woman's right over her own body.

Drawing on the regulations in other countries, the religious alliance, led by the Life and Ethics Center of the Faculty of Theology of Fu Jen Catholic University, believed a longer "reconsideration period" saves more lives from being aborted.

The alliance has also started a campaign to support a longer wait-ing period for women considering abortions by distributing free VCDs of the abortion process.

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