Law and reality collidePro-Life Doctors, a group that consists of obstetricians who oppose abortion, has accused three obstetrics hospitals of conducting illegal abortions and reported them to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office.
The group says it will continue to report such obstetricians until the Korean government amends its laws and practices.
Under current regulations, illegal abortions can be punished with up to two years’ imprisonment for both the doctor and patient.
Abortion is only allowed under special circumstances, like pregnancy by rape and for mothers who are mentally and/or physically unstable or have a disease that could be passed to their child.
Even so, abortions are frequently performed in hospitals across Korea. Additionally, of the more than 1,000 abortions performed every day, more than 95 percent don’t fall under the “special circumstances” designation.
Thus, according to what the law says, a significant number of doctors should be charged with breaking the law. Yet they are not.
This obviously indicates that there is a huge gap between the law and reality.
The abortion rate in Korea is 29.8 out of 1,000 fertile women - one of the highest among nations that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
One of the biggest factors behind this is that the Korean government turns a blind eye to abortion and at the same time promotes birth control, inadvertently acknowledging it as a means of contraception.
There is also a huge stigma attached to single mothers in Korean society.
What’s worse, doctors often prefer abortion to childbirth, which is hardly profitable, from a financial standpoint.
The government must come up with solutions to address these issues.
Pro-Life Doctors, meanwhile, says the problem can be solved if the government simply enforces the law. If doctors stop performing abortions because they fear being charged and punished, abortion will decrease, they say.
However, there is also a concern that if the laws are enforced without the establishment of a relevant social infrastructure, such a move will have backlash, possibly triggering the creation of a black market for abortions or convincing more women to travel overseas to get the procedure.
And then there’s the middle ground: allow abortions for women who are 12 weeks pregnant or less regardless of the reason and then crack down on other cases, as some suggest.