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Proposed law would let Taiwanese women get abortions without spouses' approval

7,427 Taiwanese back proposed amendment to allow married women to get abortions without spousal consent

(UNFPA photo)

(UNFPA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Health Promotion Administration (HPA) on Wednesday (Dec. 9) announced it will propose eliminating a law that requires women to receive permission from their spouses to have an abortion.

Article 9 of the Genetic Health Act (優生保健法) states that if a married woman wishes to undergo an abortion, she must first receive consent from her spouse. However, a petition to rescind the law on the Public Policy Proposal Platform received 7,441 signatures, exceeding the minimum of 5,000 needed to require a response from a government department.

On Wednesday, HPA Deputy Director-General Wu Chao-chun (吳昭軍) announced that in order to comply with the UN's Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and after consulting with various groups in the community, the department is planning to amend the Genetic Health Act to meet the expectations of the public and achieve the greatest consensus, reported CNA. Wu said more discussions will be held internally and that a draft of the new legislation will be announced in March.

Some who signed the petition pointed out that since a pregnancy affects an individual woman's body, she should be granted the power to terminate it. They argued that whether a woman is married or not should make no difference. However, those opposed to changing the law argue the matter affects both partners in a marriage and that both should have a hand in deciding whether or not to go through with the pregnancy.

From the standpoint of the medical association, Huang Min-chao (黃閔照), chairman of the Taiwan Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology, supports the removal of spouse consent, reported UDN. Although some people think that the husband provides sperm and has the right to claim embryos, pregnancy actually has a greater impact on women's health, said Huang.

Huang pointed out that among the countries in the world where abortion is legal, fewer than 10 explicitly require spousal consent.

Lin Hsiu-i (林秀怡), director of the Development Department of the Awakening Foundation, said that there have been reports of women in the midst of divorce negotiations who wished to terminate their pregnancy but whose husbands did not agree to it and used the current abortion law to gain leverage. She said that in some cases, the husband has threatened to report their wife if she goes through with the abortion but does not agree to his terms for divorce.

Lin welcomed the proposed amendment as an important development in women’s physical autonomy. She said that the consent requirement places more decision-making power in the hands of the husband rather than the woman.