Fri, Jan 05, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Legislature mulls changes to abortion rules

UNEXPECTED UNITY The two main amendments proposed by the DPP and KMT both support a six-day waiting period for those women seeking a termination

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The debate over whether Taiwan's liberal laws on abortion should be amended to impose a compulsory waiting period for women seeking abortions was originally scheduled to be debated yesterday at the legislature, with three competing versions of an amendment to the ninth statute of the Genetic Health Law (優生保健法).

The meeting however was canceled due to a lack of legislators.

The version of the amendment sponsored by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Yang Li-huan (楊麗環) and others emphasizes "family values," "the fetus' right to life" and abstinence-only sex-education for young people.

An amendment sponsored by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Tai-hua (林岱樺) focused more on the effect of abortion on demand on Taiwan's flagging birth rate and the psychological harm sustained by women due to having an abortion.

Both amendments support a six-day waiting period for those seeking abortions, after an initial consultation with a counselor.

The third amendment, spon-sored by DPP Legislator Huang Sue-ying, (黃淑英) however, does not include a waiting period, but would create an insurance fund to help women cover some of the costs related to abortions.

Yang, the only amendment sponsor to attend the legislature's Health, Environment and Social Welfare Committee meeting yesterday, said she and Lin supported each other's amendments.

"We agree on the importance of the sanctity of life," Yang said. "But my amendment focuses more on teaching young people early on the importance of maintaining their chastity, for both men and women."

Huang, however, attacked the other two amendments for "disre-specting" a woman's autonomy.

"If religious groups want to spread their values, they should prosyletize, not force the rest of us to go along with their morals by pushing through legislation," said Huang of Yang's amendment, which she said was colored by religious beliefs.

Huang also had harsh words for Lin's amendment, which mentioned low birth rates as a pressing problem for Taiwan while recommending a six-day waiting period.

"We should not be manipulating female bodies every time we need to raise or lower the population," said Huang, adding that abortion was originally legalized in Taiwan with a view of encouraging a lower birth rate, although birthrates started to decline before the law went into effect.

"The real reason that women are not willing to have kids is that the burden on them is too great. You see this in all countries with traditional Confucian values ... The solution is greater gender equality and more social support," Huang said.

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