Doctors performing fewer abortions

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Doctors performing fewer abortions


Due to the recent media reports and actions by a group of doctors, many obstetricians in Korea have stopped performing abortions.

A clinic in Suwon, Gyeonggi, said that until this year it had performed 50 to 100 abortions a month, making up to 40 million won ($34,572). Starting this month, however, it stopped altogether.

The nation is locked in a heated controversy over abortion after an obstetricians’ group, Pro-Life Doctors, reported three hospitals to prosecutors for allegedly conducting illegal abortions.

Abortion under Korean law is illegal except for in special circumstances including pregnancy by rape and for mothers with a contagious disease or mental or physical illness. Even so, illegal abortions have long been swept under the rug, widely performed in hospitals throughout the country.

Many doctors say the movement is causing more harm than good.

One doctor, identified as H, who runs a hospital in Incheon, said the side effects of strict anti-abortion laws will only cause the black market for the procedure to grow. “Fatal accidents can happen if a patient gets an abortion at a small hospital full of germs and dangerous needles,” he said.

Women who want abortions say that they have been left with no choices. “Is the government saying that I should have a baby, no questions asked, even though I can’t support myself or don’t want a baby?” said a woman in her 20s at a hospital.

At an obstetrics office in Gangnam District, southern Seoul at 2 p.m. last Sunday, there were about 10 people waiting for treatment. A woman in her 20s came out of the office, greeted by a male in a military uniform, whom she told, “They said they can’t do it. What should we do?”

One problem that has surfaced is that although the number of unwanted pregnancies is rising, especially among teenagers, sex education at Korean schools and the child welfare system have not improved. According to Statistics Korea, the number of babies born to mothers age 19 or younger has risen to 3,467 in 2007, up from 3,128 in 2005.

At Pureun Auseong, a sex education and counseling institute, around 37 percent of its teenage counseling sessions in 2008 were related to sex and pregnancy. Even so, the hours spent on sex education in schools is decreasing. The average hours spent at local elementary schools per year have decreased from 10.1 in 2007, to 9.2 last year. In high schools, the average hours decreased from 10.4 to 8.9 during the same period.

Pro-Life Doctors official Shim Sang-duk said, “Even in the past, there have been many young pregnant women without money who go through dangerous abortions at clinics. To reduce these risks, we need to have stricter illegal abortion regulations.”


By Kim Jung-soo, Jeong Seon-eon [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]

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