April 20, 2024

Is Korea rejecting legal abortion?

Government running ads against abortion.

Repentant doctorsFor perhaps the first time, South Korea is
debating abortion, to the great discomfiture of its gynaecologists.
Unlike the US and other Western countries, abortion has not been framed
as a moral issue in Korea, despite the growing number of Christians.
And with a vigorous government campaign to reduce the birth rate, the
number of abortions annually is about 340,000. Yet paradoxically,
nearly all of them are technically illegal. Abortion is only permitted
when the mother’s health is in serious danger, or in cases of rape,
incest or severe hereditary disorders. All abortion over 24 weeks are

The problem is that the government’s
campaign has been too successful. Liberal attitudes towards abortion
have helped the South Korean birth rate to plunge to 1.19 children per
woman. Now the government is desperate to boost it, lest the rapidly
ageing population drag down the economy. President Lee Myung-bak has
called for “bold” steps to increase the nation’s birthrate. Amongst
these, apparently, is a crack-down on illegal abortions. “Even if we
don’t intend to hold anyone accountable for all those illegal abortions
in the past, we must crack down on them from now on,” the minister for
health, welfare and family affairs, Jeon Jae-hee, told the New York

The government is even sponsoring public
service announcements and billboards. “With abortion, you are aborting
the future,” says one of them.

Gynaecologists are also feeling the
pressure from former colleagues who have foresworn abortion and plan to
report abortionists to the police. Dr Choi Anna and Dr Shim Sang-duk
have formed a group called Gynob which is working to radically reduce
the number of abortions. In November, they and dozens of other
obstetricians held a news conference to ask for “forgiveness” for
having performed illegal abortions, the Times reports.

The Korean Association of Obstetricians and
Gynecologists, which has 4,000 members, opposes a crackdown, saying
that women would simply go abroad for their abortion or resort to
illegal backyard abortions. ~ New York Times, Jan 5


Michael Cook