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Today (11 April 2019) there was a ruling by South Korea’s Constitutional Court that told the government to decriminalise abortion in the country and reform abortion laws by 2020.

In a long-awaited moment catalysed by one female doctor, women in South Korea finally receive knowledge of impending ability to make decisions about their pregnancies without criminal consequences.

South Korea’s abortion law

Today’s judgment by the Constitutional Court followed a challenge by a doctor who has been prosecuted for carrying out abortions. The ruling requires that the National Assembly must reform the law by 31 December 2020.

In a statement by the court on this successful ruling, it commented:

“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.”

“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 rights to life.”

The current law criminalises abortions, and only allows for exceptions in cases of rape, incest, severe genetic disorders, specific diseases or if a woman’s or girl’s health is endangered by the pregnancy. In these limited instances, abortions must be performed within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy and are subject to spousal consent.

Women who terminate a pregnancy can face fines of up to 2 million won (£1,414) or one year in jail. Medical professionals who assist with abortions can face prison terms of up to two years if convicted.

The mega-churches of South Korea have an evangelical ideology, echoing the religious anti-abortion rhetoric coming to the fore today to similar campaigns in the USA by those who want to stop abortion.

Roseann Rife, Amnesty International’s East Asia Research Director commented:

“Today’s ruling is a major step forward for the human rights of women and girls in South Korea. Read more

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