South Korean Court orders government to end decades abortion ban

South Korea's Constitutional Court today ordered the easing of the country's decades-old ban on most abortions, one of the strictest in the developed world. Abortions have been largely illegal in South Korea since 1953, though convictions for violating the restrictions are rare.

South Korean decades abortion ban to end.
South Korean decades abortion ban to end. 
 Yet, the illegality of abortions forces women to seek out unauthorised and often expensive procedures to end their pregnancies, creating a social stigma that makes them feel like criminals. 

The parliament must revise legislation to ease the current regulations by the end of 2020, said the court's nine-justice panel. 

 The court's said the current abortion law was incompatible with the constitution and would be repealed if parliament fails to come up with new legislation by then. 

 The order given is final and cannot be appealed, court officials said, but current regulations will remain in effect until they are replaced or repealed. 

Changing of the law could open up the door to more abortions for social and economic reasons. 

Current exceptions to the law only allow abortions when a woman is pregnant through rape or incest, when a pregnancy seriously jeopardises her health, or when she or her male partner has certain diseases.

Both the doctor and the woman involved in abortion in South Korea can be punished, the woman punished with up to one year in prison for having an illegal abortion, and a doctor can get up to two years in prison for performing an unauthorised abortion. 

 Thursday's opinion was a response to an appeal filed in February 2017 by an obstetrician charged with carrying out about 70 unauthorised abortions from 2013-2017 at the request or approval of pregnant women. Activists say most abortions in South Korea, whether lawful or unlawful, take place at registered hospitals.

 Though, it very difficult to find hospitals offering illegal abortions and they usually charge high prices because the procedures are not covered by medical insurance programs. 

Ham Sooyeon, leader of the nonprofit Korea Pro-Life group, said before the ruling that rather than easing the abortion restrictions, South Korea should find ways to improve support systems for poor, single mothers and their children and change public views on single mothers.


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