Let’s talk about abortionAbortion will continue to be illegal in Korea after the Constitutional Court upheld the long-held prohibition on induced abortion. In the end, a divided court voted in favor of “pro-life” over “pro-choice” after a constitutional review. It is now time for society to consider how to honor the highest court’s decision.
The split vote by the eight-judge panel in the recent case of a midwife who performed an illegal abortion highlights how the issue remains a contentious one lacking in broad consensus. According to the criminal code, doctors, midwives and pharmacists are forbidden from terminating pregnancies, and women can only seek to do so in cases of rape or incest.
The judges who voted to overturn the ban said that women deserve the right to choose to end unwanted pregnancies during the first trimester stage (the first 12-week period). Those who upheld the ban warned that abortion would become more rampant without strict punishment. In reality, however, abortions are widespread in Korea, which in fact has one of the highest abortion rates in the world. The Ministry of Health and Welfare said that the number of cases fell sharply to 169,000 in 2010, but many question the accuracy of the data as few people admit to breaking the law. Because it is difficult to prosecute such cases, the number of arrests stands at less than 10 a year.
Society must come up with fundamental solutions to the problem to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions. Sex education for young people needs to be strengthened, and counselling services should be made more accessible. Moreover, the government should bolster its support for single parents; otherwise, the country will not be able to bring down the number of illegal abortions, overseas adoptions and abandonment of infants simply by outlawing abortion.
The unborn child’s right to live cannot be protected entirely by a legal ban. As the judges who opposed the ban said, the difficulties that women face during pregnancy, childbirth and beyond should also be taken into consideration. The question of pro-life versus pro-choice finds itself at the center of the heated public policy debate leading up to the November presidential election in the United States. The budget cuts for Planned Parenthood is also a hot-button issue for the candidates. Abortion is more than a legal issue. The decision of who is eligible for an abortion needs to be discussed by our entire society.