[EDITORIALS]Time to Approve Morning-After Pill

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[EDITORIALS]Time to Approve Morning-After Pill

After an unidentified pharmaceutical company's recent application to import and sell the so-called morning-after birth control pill, Korean society has found itself engaged in heated debate. The Ministry of Gender Equality and religious groups, including the Catholic and Protestant communities, oppose the move to import the pill. They argue that the pill could cause young people to regard human life lightly and encourage casual sex. The Ministry of Health and Welfare and some youth organizations support sale of the pill with some restrictions, saying it could reduce the incidence of abortion.

The morning-after pill, sold under the brand name NorLevo, is reportedly 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy when taken immediately after unprotected sexual intercourse and an additional pill is taken within 72 hours. The pill is sold in the United States and Europe. In France, nurses at 7,500 junior high and high schools nationwide have been allowed to distribute the pills to students since last year. Of course, the intent is to prevent unwanted teen pregnancies. In France, about 10,000 female students contend with unwanted pregnancy annually, and 6,700 of them choose abortion. In Asia, only Sri Lanka permits sale of the morning-after pills.

The debate over whether or not to approve import and sales of the pill has become fiercer; some call the pill a post-exposure prophylactic; others argue that it is an abortion drug. They argue that the morning-after pill is nothing more than abortion at an early stage.

In Korea, abortion among youth has reached a serious level. In some extreme cases, infants have been abandoned in public restrooms. Health care providers estimate that every year 1 million illegal abortions are performed in Korea. The current Mother and Child Health Act only allows abortion if the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest or if the pregnancy poses serious harm to the mother's health.

To prevent unintended pregnancy and rampant abortion among our teenagers, the pill should be approved under the responsibility of schools and public health centers. And as a much-needed added measure, sex education for our youth should be improved.
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