Abortion Law and Abortion Discourse in Taiwan: Rights, Social Movements and Democratization

329 Pages Posted: 29 Apr 2008 Last revised: 8 Aug 2021

Date Written: April 23, 2008


My dissertation tells a story of the abortion right in Taiwan: how abortion was not a right either before or after its legalization, how it became a right after the mobilization of social movements and democratization, and finally, what sort of right it is today. Abortion was legalized in Taiwan in 1985, for the purposes of population control and social and economic development of the nation. The legalization debates of the 1980s (the Old Abortion Debate), did not include a rights discourse. Twenty years later, when new abortion bans were submitted to the Legislature for review, a fresh round of debate (The New Abortion Debate) began in which a rights discourse emerged. My dissertation compares the abortion discourses of the Old Abortion Debate with the New Abortion Debate. I examine in what way they are different and, in particular, whether the use of the language of rights increased. Based on an empirical analysis of legislative records, I conclude that the quantity of abortion rights discourse significantly increased in Taiwan in the period of the New Abortion Debate. I explore the factors that appear to have contributed most to the emergence of the rights discourse. I argue that structural change in the legislative forum and the ideological change in the concept of rights altered the political atmosphere, creating the possibility of adopting rights discourse in the New Abortion Debate. However, the framing of feminist proabortion movement affected the abortion rights discourse more directly. Feminists framed women's abortion right as a right to abortion autonomy rather than what North Americans refer to as a private choice or a freedom. Under the strong influence of feminists, abortion autonomy has become the dominant perspective in the abortion rights discourse in Taiwan.

Keywords: abortion, rights theory, empirical study of law, legal discourse, Taiwan, feminists, reproductive right, legal mobilization, rights discourse, legislative study, comparative law, comparative constitutionalism

Suggested Citation

Kuan, Hsiaowei, Abortion Law and Abortion Discourse in Taiwan: Rights, Social Movements and Democratization (April 23, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1125070 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1125070

Hsiaowei Kuan (Contact Author)

National Taipei University ( email )

Dept. of Finance
Taipei, Taiwan 100

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