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Calls to end South Korea abortion ban reach top court

More than 230,000 people signed petition to legalise abortion last year.

Ngày đăng: 30 tháng 3, 2021
Cập nhật: 8 tháng 7, 2022
Lượt xem: 166605077
Nguồn: vnexpress

A decades-old abortion ban that activists say endangers women - even if it is only sporadically enforced - will be challenged in South Korea's supreme court this week.

Along with Ireland, which held a referendum on reforming strict abortion laws on Friday, South Korea is one of the few industrialized countries where the procedure is illegal, except for cases of rape, incest and when the mother's health is in jeopardy.

Women who terminate a pregnancy face a fine and a year in prison, while doctors who terminate a pregnancy can face a fine of up to two years.

In fact, the 1953 law rarely led to prosecution.

But there are growing calls for change as activists argue that criminalization leaves women vulnerable to unsafe procedures and the whims of politicians and expulsion. money from their partner.

"It's anachronistic," Kim Dong-sik, a researcher at the state-run Korean Women's Development Institute, told AFP.“We are still stuck in 1953."

Calls to repeal the law have gained traction in recent years with more than 230,000 people signing a petition to legalise abortion last year.

On Thursday, the Constitutional Court will consider a challenge from a doctor indicted for performing nearly 70 abortions.

But opposition is still strong in a country that is still conservative towards female sexuality and heavily influenced by Protestant Christianity.

Historically, law enforcement has been patchy as South Korea has gone from being an impoverished nation to one of Asia's wealthiest economies.

Jay Kim, from the nonprofit advocacy group Womenlink, said: “The country has a tacit history of promoting abortion and contraception when it needs to shrink its population, and when low birth rates became an issue, they held back. abort abortion".

Kim said that in the 1960s when Korea was poorer, abortion buses roamed the streets as authorities were concerned about overpopulation and promoted a semi-formal "per-family" policy. one child".

Underground doctors

The court hearing on Thursday comes a day before Ireland holds a referendum on whether to repeal its even more restrictive abortion ban that forces women to head overseas to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

In contrast, abortion is common and possible in Korea.

A survey conducted by the Korea Women's Development Institute last month found that one in five women who had ever been pregnant had had an abortion.Only one percent said they had a legitimate reason to terminate the pregnancy.

In these cases, women need "evidence". that they have been raped, or - where their health is at risk - need permission from their partner.The procedure must be done within the first six months of pregnancy.

The ban also increases health risks, with women forced to seek out doctors under the radar and unable to claim reimbursement for their health insurance.

"They have to sign a contract that says they won't hold the doctor accountable for any legal problems or complications," explains Yoon Jung-won, an obstetrician at Green Hospital in Seoul. like.

The law also means that the majority of terminations are done surgically, Yoon added, at a cost of about $5,550, although less invasive options are available.

"It's been 30 years since the abortion pill was invented, but they haven't been introduced yet," she said.

Many women also live in fear of being reported by their partner to the authorities after a breakup.

Religious opposition

South Koreans are deeply divided over the issue, with religious groups leading the charge against overturning the ban.

A group of university professors - mostly devout Catholics - filed last month asking for the ban to remain in place.

They said: “Nothing in the world came before the life of a human being.

South Korea is home to many large churches, many evangelical churches, and has been deeply influenced by anti-abortion campaigns in the United States.

In 2012, the Constitutional Court dismissed a lawsuit challenging the law.

The judges were divided and for a law to be determined unconstitutional, it needed a majority of six judges on a nine-member bench.

But activists in favor of changing the law know they have a rare opportunity.

The court, now under a more liberal government, boasts a flurry of new judges while a number of judges - including the chief justice - have publicly expressed willingness to review the law.

Even if the bid fails, human rights activists say the government can take steps to ease the burden on pregnant women.

Lawyer Lee Han-bon said authorities could start by increasing the level of benefits single mothers receive.

"It is unfair to legally punish women who have made the difficult choice of abortion when not a dime is being offered to single mothers," he said.


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