South Korea’s highest court says protective abortion law must be changed

By Dave Andrusko

On Thursday, by a vote of 7-2, South Korea’s highest court ruled that the National Assembly must revise the nation’s 66-year-old abortion law by the end of 2020 or the Constitutional Court will rule the 1953 law null and void.

“The abortion ban limits women’s rights to pursue their own destinies, and violates their rights to health by limiting their access to safe and timely procedures,” the court said in a statement. “Embryos completely depend on the mother’s body for their survival and development, so it cannot be concluded that they are separate, independent living beings entitled to the right to life.”

South Korean law currently bans abortion with exceptions for rape, incest, severe genetic disorders or when the mother’s health is in danger. According to various accounts, abortions after 20 weeks (or 24 weeks) would still be proscribed.

“The case before the Constitutional Court this week began after a doctor filed a petition against the law after he was indicted for carrying out an abortion of a three-month-old fetus in 2014,” CNN Wire reported. The abortionist “claimed that the abortion ban violated his right to pursue happiness, to equality and freedom of occupation.”

As NRL News Today reported in 2012, the Constitutional Court split 4-4 on a challenge to the law. But six votes were required.

Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, “has avoided commenting on the issue, but has pledged support for women’s rights in response to the rapid rise of the country’s #MeToo movement,” according to Justin McCurry of The Guardian. “Moon, a liberal, appointed five of the current constitutional court justices, raising hopes that the abortion ban would be overturned, with the court’s chief justice among those who had come out publicly in favour of change.”

Reuters, a very pro-abortion publication, acknowledged, “An easing of the ban could open up the door to more abortions for social and economic reasons.”

When South Korea “began its family planning campaign in 1960s with international assistance,” abortion was tacitly encouraged for decades, The Guardian reported. But by the 2000s fertility had dropped well below the two-child replacement level and the government did a 180 beginning in 2009.

The government’s “comprehensive plan for low birthrate” discouraged abortion but prosecutions, either of women or abortionists, for violating the law were virtually non-existent. Pro-abortionists argued that nonetheless this had a “chilling” effect.