就在前幾天，民進黨代表團出席了今年在保加利亞首都索菲亞舉行的國際自由聯盟（Liberal International, LI）大會。國際自由聯盟是民進黨長期以來一直熱衷參與的一個國際進步派團體。這明明是一個充分表達台灣立場的好時機，但蔡英文總統在該會以影片致詞時，對於現國際間屬重要議題的女性權利議題卻隻字未提。
蔡政府之所以不願對於美國墮胎案一事發表任何評論，難道是因為不想得罪美國共和黨？那麼反觀2021年駐美代表蕭美琴受邀至極度保守的「全美議會交流理事會」（American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC）發言，當時她對於台灣的墮胎權利、LGBT或環境監管政策也是隻字未提，似乎也就很合理了。
基於台灣的民意，台灣目前利於保障婦女墮胎的法律與政策在近期應該不會有太大的改變。那麼，何不在現有政策與民意的基礎上來建立台灣的外交形象呢？如果蔡政府真的支持墮胎權或LGBT權利，實在不需要對這樣的話題三緘其口。 外交部經常宣稱，台灣與志同道合的民主同盟站在同一陣線、「Taiwan Can Help」，如果台灣有意要在這些民主同盟之間建立其全球倡議的合作地位，那麼婦女權利是一個很好的切入點，這也可以成為美國共和黨與台灣關係之間的一個好的測試。
The Supreme Court Abortion Decision: Should Taiwan Shy Away From Policies?
By Ross Darrell Feingold
Former Asia Chairman, Republicans Abroad
On June 24th the United States Supreme Court ruled that the United States Constitution does not protect the right to an abortion, which will result in numerous states making abortion illegal.
In Taiwan, the Genetic Health Act provides a legal basis for abortion, overriding the criminalization of abortion contained in the Criminal Code Part 2, Chapter 24. Birth control, emergency contraception, and abortion are readily accessible. Among the few restrictions are a requirement for married women to obtain their spouse’s consent, and for 18 and 19 year olds to obtain a guardian’s consent (which, to the disappointment of advocates, the Democratic Progressive Party majority in the Legislative Yuan has failed to remedy). Although the government estimates there about 200,000 abortions in Taiwan each year, some estimates are as high as 500,000 abortions per year.
The China Times sought a comment about the Supreme Court decision from Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the reply it received was “the US Supreme Court constitutional interpretation is a matter of domestic United States politics, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has no comment”.
Certainly, it is easy for the government of President Tsai Ing-wen to avoid answering this question, by simply saying it is a domestic matter of another country. In reality, the Tsai Administration frequently comments on domestic matters in other countries such as China.
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision, worldwide reaction was mostly critical, with strongly worded statements criticizing the decision coming from leaders of, among others, Canada, France, Iceland, New Zealand, Scotland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Statements in support of the Supreme Court decision and in favor of abortion restrictions came from Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro and the Vatican.
Taiwan does some low profile work with international organizations that support abortion rights. Among recent events that Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs co-organized with non-government organizations outside Taiwan (in the absence of Taiwan being able to participate in United Nations and organizations such as the World Health Organization) was an online event with international NGO the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, an organization which promotes access to abortions.
The reality is that it is no secret what the Tsai Administration’s views on abortion are. Thus, one option in the aftermath of the United States Supreme Court decision would be for Taiwan to go “all in” to support US women seeking abortions. Taiwan could make available English speaking doctors and provide tele-medicine consultations, and join the growing number of foreign governments and international organizations that will facilitate the mailing of medication to the United States. Doing so would certainly endear Taiwan to the Biden Administration. European governments are also eager to promote access to abortions in the developing world, which presents an opportunity for Taiwan to work with European countries.
Yet in conducting foreign relations, and especially when engaging with foreign conservative organizations and politicians, the Taiwan government shies away from discussing its positions that may offend conservatives, such as on abortion or LGBT rights.
In recent days before this column was published, a delegation from the Democratic Progressive Party attended the global Congress of the Liberal International which was held this year in Sofia, Bulgaria. The Liberal International is a grouping of progressive political parties from around the world, and the Democratic Progressive Party has long been an enthusiastic participant. On June 30th President Tsai delivered a video speech to the Liberal International. The speech omits women’s and reproductive rights, even though these are important issues for the Liberal International which has previously said it seeks “to empower people to take their own decisions about their sexual and reproductive situation”. Perhaps this was a missed opportunity for President Tsai to share Taiwan’s positions on these issues with a global audience.
Is the Tsai Administration’s reluctance to comment about the Supreme Court decision from fear of offending its Republican supporters in the United States? Perhaps, and thus, it is no surprise that when Representative to the United States Bi-khim Hsiao spoke to the very conservative American Legislative Exchange Council in 2021, she did not mention Taiwan’s abortion, LGBT or environmental regulation policies.
If the Tsai Administration takes a more high-profile position on the legality of abortion globally, such would merely be consistent with existing domestic policies. This would also contrast with the Kuomintang, who, as part of its attempts to remind the international community that it still exists, has recently begun to re-engage with an international coalition of right-of-center parties, the International Democratic Union, many of whose member political parties oppose abortion right and maintain other positions that are inconsistent with popular opinion in Taiwan. In reality, the Kuomintang has no position on abortion, which makes it impossible for the Kuomintang to find common cause with either Democrats or Republicans in the United States, notwithstanding the Kuomintang’s attempt to make friends with Democrats while also claiming it is old friends with Republicans.
Taiwan’s abortion-friendly laws and policies are not going to change to restrictive policies or a ban on abortion. There is little call for that in Taiwan. So why not embrace the existing policy and make use of it for foreign policy gain? If the Tsai Administration truly supports abortion rights (or LGBT rights), there’s no reason for it to shy away from making its views known, as other countries have. President Tsai and the Foreign Ministry often proclaim that Taiwan will stand with like-minded countries. If there’s an issue for Taiwan to improve relations with European countries and work together on global initiatives, reproductive rights would appear to be it. It would also be a good test of whether Republican support for Taiwan can withstand significantly different views on an issue as sensitive as abortion.
Ultimately, if on the international stage, Taiwan wants to be a normal country, then it needs to be brave enough to also sometimes disagree with its friends, rather than only disagree with its enemies.