Showing posts with label abortion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label abortion. Show all posts

Monday, December 28, 2020

Taiwan needs to change its abortion laws, but will it?


As usual I don't have a great header image, but I thought a memorial temple to five women who were screwed over by the patriarchy in Taiwan's distant history was fitting enough (from Tainan's Five Concubines Temple)

News broke early in December that Taiwan's the Health Promotion Administration is planning to propose changes to Taiwan's abortion laws. Specifically, they hope to eliminate the requirement that married women seeking an abortion require the consent of their spouse, as this infringes on a woman's bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom, is discriminatory towards women. The proposal also includes changing the title and some of the language in the law (problematically called the "Genetic Health Act", yikes) for being discriminatory.

I didn’t write about this when it happened partly because I was simply too busy, but also partly because I wasn’t sure I had much to say about it. Of course the law should be changed; that's obvious. But it rattled around in my head long enough to come out in written form, so here we are. 

I think it's a good entry point to revisit the debate over liberalism and conservatism in Taiwanese society, which I will do in a subsequent post, but it deserves its own investigation first.

To my mind, the double standard that unmarried women can exercise reproductive rights fairly easily (anyone can claim that carrying a pregnancy to term would harm their 'mental health' or 'family life') but married ones are subject to the approval of a spouse seems to be built on several assumptions. First, that a husband -- this law was enacted when same-sex marriage and trans rights were not even under consideration -- has the right to make decisions about his wife's body without her agreement. Second, that a woman needs to give a 'reason' for terminating a pregnancy. Third, that a single woman has rights which they lose when they get married,  meaning that married women are still seen in a sense as property. Finally, that children in households with married spouses were usually desirable to society but unmarried pregnant women were not. In fact, if you read the law carefully, the "[if the pregnancy will] affect family life" provision makes it fairly easy for a married man's affair partner to get an abortion, but not his wife.

Read between the lines: it was never about giving single women a way out while respecting the "partnership" of marriage, and those who say it is are full of crap. It was always about protecting men who got women pregnant out of wedlock, but valuing a married woman's children and her male partner's right to them over the woman herself. While some architects of the law might have hoped it would ultimately improve women's rights, it was never fully about that: it was always about which pregnancies were desirable -- to society, not the women carrying them -- and which weren't. There's a reason why some people translate the Genetic Health Act as the "Eugenics Act". That's basically what it is. Just look at one of the very first phrases in the act, which references the "upgrade" of "population quality". 

It's worth discussing abuse of the law's marital status loophole by some clinics: I've heard stories from multiple sources -- which I'm keeping confidential for obvious reasons -- that there are clinics that ask for "the father's" approval to those seeking an abortion, even if the patient is not married. I have mostly heard of this happening to foreign women who may not know the law, but also of Taiwanese women being treated this way. (I don't know whether it actually happens less often to them as they're more likely to know the law, or being a foreigner here, I hear fewer of those stories).

Focus Taiwan points out that the past 20 years were marked with attempts to change the language, in 2006 and again in 2013. That places the initial attempt to amend the law near the end of Chen Shui-bian’s presidency. The 2012-2013 attempt (when the Executive Yuan ordered the HPA to amend the law, which never happened) would have been just before the Ma Ying-jeou presidency caved in on itself. The legislative change that allowed abortions was promulgated under KMT dictatorship, but had also been illegal under that same dictatorship for decades as they promoted traditional gender roles. This means that such initiatives could be proposed and pass or fail regardless of the party in power.  

I'm not sure that will hold up, however. The KMT seems to be swinging toward social conservatism and appears to be unable to attract young supporters despite some members' warnings. The DPP seems to be swinging away from it, with the future of the party looking to new generations as older members, well, storm off in huffs that few pay attention to. 

Will the law ultimately be amended? I think so; though some are trying to bring the Culture Wars to Taiwan and the KMT appears to be receptive, they haven't been quite as successful as their counterparts in the US or elsewhere. The government that passed same-sex marriage and appointed the first openly trans woman to a highly public position is likely to also welcome changes that broaden access to reproductive rights. The court that made same-sex marriage an issue of immediate legislative importance and ended the criminalization of adultery is fairly likely to keep up the trend, if it goes to the courts. Public opinion doesn't seem to favor these changes, but neither do people seem eager to re-hash previous battles. Changes happen, culture adapts, and society moves on.

However, opposition to improving access to abortion rights is likely to ramp up in coming months, led by the same people who screeched about marriage equality. As these groups not only appear to study US Republican strategies for inducing outrage but in some cases work openly with the American right wing, you'll probably hear a lot of the same facetious arguments you hear in the US. 

There will surely be some who scream that it's not in Taiwanese (or Chinese) traditional 'culture' to allow this, because of a cultural emphasis on 'family values'. Of course, name one culture whose 'traditions' are not said to 'emphasize family', and I will buy you a beer. 

This argument will conveniently forget that most laws propagated in Taiwan until the 1990s were created under foreign dictatorship, so it's not clear how Taiwanese laws actually relate to Taiwanese culture. If you want to make the "Chinese culture" argument, please go talk to the People's Republic of China where abortion has been easily accessible for quite some time, and in many cases was actually forced on pregnant people

This is all likely to come to a screaming, frothing head, with the KMT most likely playing a role. There will be protests, those who already hate President Tsai are going to use this as another reason to attack her (even though it's not directly her doing, I would imagine she supports it), and public opinion polls will once again show that Taiwan is in many ways a more conservative society than some factors indicate, but also more liberal than the world often believes. Then it will pass, and things will go quiet-ish until the next round of battles.

All of that leads us to the ultimate question: given Taiwan's recent achievements and changes to abortion access likely, is Taiwan a 'liberal' or 'conservative' society?

Of course, as with any debate that attempts to posit a clear dichotomy, the answer is 'both' and 'neither' -- a discussion for the near future.

Edit: here it is!

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Some of my latest work for Ketagalan Media

As y'all know, I like to update here on what I'm writing elsewhere. Well - I have two pieces out - now a few weeks old - in Ketagalan Media and one in the latest issue of Taipei Magazine. I especially enjoyed writing the Taipei Magazine one, an interview with Taipei-based illustrator and activist Ai ee mi, the sort of work I enjoy but don't get to do very often.  

I was going to wait until the Taipei Magazine one was available online through Taiwan Scene, but that seems to be taking awhile, so I'll just put this out there now.

First, I expanded on my earlier post about Taiwan being the most successful Asian Tiger, adding a few new sections, updating a little data, and streamlining the whole thing. You can read it here. It's chock full of numbers that I think make a convincing case.

Then, I took a look at the proposed abortion ban referendum by a Christian group, and pointed out that our strategies in dealing with the ant-equality referendums were not successful, so we need to counter this new proposal with new tactics updated now that we know how the conservatives operate, and we need to do it soon.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Day in the Tri-Service Hospital ER, and links

I've been sick and recently come around the bend after a week of getting sicker, so haven't had the energy or mental with-it-ness to devote to actual blogging. By "sick" I mean "I spent a day in the ER because I was puking up water, pooping my intestines out and still had a bronchial infection", not at home with the sniffles.

Which, hey, gotta say - once again I'd like to thank Taiwan National Health Insurance for being super awesome. You guys are great - I will never, ever return to the American system as it currently is, even under the ACA. I realize the government is worried that they won't have enough money to maintain the system - I say that a healthy populace requires an investment, and that the money comes back to you in other ways (a healthier populace is also a more productive populace, and one that needs to return less often for follow-up treatment or relapses), and that whatever it may cost, it can't possibly be more than the US currently wastes on those who need medical care and can't afford it (both in coverage of ER/hospital bills they can't pay, ER visits that could have been avoided with a trip to the doctor, which they also couldn't afford, and missed work due to illness you can't afford to treat, not to mention covering only the sick, old and veterans, meaning that you have no risk pool of generally healthy people to help offset the cost) in our "more efficient" (heh heh) mostly-privatized system. Taiwan is so much better, and is a true model for good socialized health insurance (although it is not perfect). Why so many people assume the problem-ridden European/Canadian/Australian systems - especially the British one - are the only way to do socialized coverage is beyond me. Take a look around the world, and see that a better world is possible.

Fortunately, even if we did leave Taiwan, we wouldn't have to return to the American system. Because...


Guess who's Canadian now? That's right - my husband. Ah, Canada, where people are generally reasonable. If we ever left Taiwan for the West (and not another country farther away), I'd hit up Canada so fast that we'd be there before you could say "where's the Tim Horton's, ey?"

Otherwise, I haven't been doing much, having been sick and all. I've spent some time on Christmas gifts, because this year's crop is handmade - I'll post about that later. So on Taiwan, I have little to say as I haven't been truly engaged with the outside world for a few weeks, and have been feeling under the weather since Halloween.

Also, we got our invitation to our good friends' wedding:

My Taiwanese friends are all either single, not interested in marriage, can't marry right now (income/visa/long-distance issues), not ready for marriage or gay, it seems, so this is the first Taiwanese wedding we'll be attending, even after 6 years in Taiwan. You'd think wed've gone to one sooner, but no. I'm excited, and so happy for them!

So...a few links:

Woman denied abortion dies in Ireland - 唉!我歸懶趴火!!This just makes me so angry. Part of me wants to say "we need a national, no, a global dialogue about this", and part of me wants to say "if you're anti-choice, go eff yourself".

Also, another reminder that Ireland's got it wrong, as do the religious fundies in the USA (note: not all religious people are crazy fundies, let's not group them all together): one person's religion should not ever dictate the life and choices legally available to someone not of that religion. It should never, ever, not ever be the basis of a law, set of laws or a government - the only exception being if everyone in that country is a member of that religion (which is rarely true - maybe Saudi Arabia? But even they have foreign workers). This includes laws on abortion, contraception and gay marriage among others. It is not right and not ethical to create a law based on a religion and then expect people not of that religion to follow it, in a country where religious tolerance is supposed to be the norm. This is why I am so against the Catholic church arguing that they shouldn't have to provide contraception coverage to women employed and insured by them: their religion gives them no right - zero right whatsoever - to determine what is and is not a basic health benefit under a normal health plan. If I were a boss and my religion told me that cancer "didn't exist"or was a punishment by Satan and must be endured, or could be cured with rosewater or whatever, that wouldn't give me the right to only offer insurance that didn't cover cancer treatment. If I believed that people with allergies were liars, that wouldn't give me the right to only offer a plan that didn't cover allergy treatments. If they don't like it, they shouldn't be employers. Or better yet, let's take health care away from the purview of employers and make it available to all independent of their job.

What happens to women who are denied abortions? Well, some of them die (see above). Others fare...not so well. As a commenter on another site put it, they don't generally happily raise the baby and move to a nice suburb in Missouri where they become contented Republican voters.

Don't Google this. Just don't. Someone once told me that "women have been historically oppressed, but so have men. What women faced wasn't any worse than what society forced upon men". BULLSHIT.

Pink Science Kits From the 1950s

A much-needed primer on cultural appropriation - I don't agree with everything in this article. I really don't - some of it is dead-on and some of it is...well...not. I'll write more about it later.

Just for fun - The Hater's Guide To The Williams-Sonoma Catalog. One funny comment:

Everyone go to your nearest Williams-Sonoma store and grab every catalog (do they call it a catalogue?) they have. Carry at least one around at all times, so the next time any person starts talking about repealing Obamacare and how the government has no place telling rich people how to spend their money, just hand them one of these.

I disagree with this, but...haha. I totally want to be that asshole.

Have a happy, sunny day!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

What To Expect When You're China

Fuck you, China.

You all know I'm pretty staunchly pro-choice. This, however, isn't choice.

Seriously, fuck you, China.

It truly amazes me what the Chinese government claims the moral authority to do, when they're clearly a bunch of deranged, power-drunk psychopaths.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Playing Chicken

I almost always vote Democratic (nowhere I've lived has had a Republican nominee I'd vote for - though I think that even though I am more liberal than most liberals, that I'd vote for a good, socially liberal Republican if one came along in my voting jurisdiction who clearly deserved my support).

But, I agree with this article. Completely. I vote Democrat because, as a woman who is consciously and actively aware of and in support of the struggle for women's rights and equality (true rights and true equality, in society as well as under the law - something that's definitely better for American women than most other women in the world, but could still stand to improve), I'm still consistently disappointed with the Democrats' fight for women's rights. I don't take my support away because the other choices are to vote Republican - which I really can't do when it comes down to the candidates I've had to choose from so far - or not vote. I could and would be an activist if I lived in the USA, but other than blustering on the Internet there's not much to be done from Taiwan. But still. What is up with the Democratic party? As the article states, they're chicken.

We're chicken.

I'm chicken, for continuing to vote "in support of" these measures...though I feel like I was forced into that role.

Why is that?

I feel like it's a massive Prisoner's Dilemma (sort of) for 51% of the population. Seriously, 51% and we can't even keep our rights safe? What's up with that? I'd love to see every likeminded woman in America suddenly turn activist, and what's more, refuse to vote for any candidate who does not support - in full, no chicken - our rights. I know that sounds extreme but it seems like that's what it's going to take. And yet nobody's willing to stand up and start taking that risk, not knowing if refusing to vote in favor of cowardly politicians of both genders.

And it's frustrating. To be pushed down that road. To have to choose between compliance and extreme, crazy left-wing action, and to know that those who would like to see our rights taken away know we won't go to that extreme.

Frustrating...and sad.