Anti-abortion movement having huge impactAs the nation’s enforcement of abortion laws has tightened due to the recent reporting of illegal cases by an anti-abortion doctors’ group, many hospitals are stopping abortions, finding ways to skirt the laws or charging large sums for the procedure.
It has been one month since Pro-Life Doctors, a group of obstetricians, reported three obstetrics hospitals to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office for conducting illegal abortions.
Since then, 80 to 90 percent of local obstetricians have since stopped performing illegal abortions, the group says.
That would be a sudden and huge turnaround for a country where abortion had been simply a fact of life.
On an online survey by popular women’s portal Ezday this year, out of 2,145 members, 37 percent said that they have had at least one abortion.
Now, not only are abortions down sharply, but even when they are still performed they are often much more expensive.
Some obstetricians are asking for up to 6 million won ($5,203) per procedure, saying that they need extra “precautionary fees” in case they get caught. Prior to recent months, an early-stage abortion averaged to around 300,000 won to 400,000 won.
Late last month, a woman in her 20s who was five months pregnant came into an unwed mothers’ facility.
She said that she had decided to give birth to the child after going to several obstetrics offices for an abortion only to get rejected.
“She gave up because she couldn’t find a hospital to perform an abortion when she was five months pregnant. And the one place that said yes requested 6 million won,” said the head of the unwed mothers’ facility.
Some doctors are finding a way around the new abortion enforcement effort.
At an obstetrics office in Gyeonggi, a woman in her 30s had an abortion. Her hospital records, however, declare that it was a miscarriage.
“She gave birth here numerous times but failed in birth control this time,” said the head of the office. “Knowing her financial situation, I couldn’t tell her to give birth to a fourth child. I had a letter of consent from her husband and educated her on birth control after the abortion.”
But that woman appears to be an exception.
As a result of the enforcement crackdown, even women who may be entitled to a legal abortion are getting turned down.
Under Korean law, abortion is allowed under special circumstances, including pregnancy by rape and for mothers who have a contagious disease or are mentally or physically disabled. Late last month, the Health Ministry received a call from a woman requesting a phone number of a hospital that would perform an abortion for her. She said that she had sex with a man but that it was “semi-rape” - which is a legal abortion case under the law at present.
However, the woman said doctors turned her down, saying that they suspected she was lying.
“Many people ask for abortions these days, saying that they have been raped or have a disease, but there is a big possibility in a lot of these cases that the patient is lying,” said Cho Byeong-gu, an executive at the Korean Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Although illegal abortion cases have dropped, some say that they are likely to pick up again after media heat dies down because the number of women who want abortions has not decreased.
“Although most hospitals have stopped illegal abortions altogether, we believe half of them are considering performing abortions again,” said Shim Sang-duk, ethics division head at Pro-Life Doctors.
By Shin Sung-sik, Kim Chung-soo [firstname.lastname@example.org]