South Korea’s constitutional court is set to rule on the nation’s abortion laws after its citizens delivered a petition to the government with hundreds of thousands of signatures asking to legalize abortion.
South Koreans banded together in September to write a petition calling on President Moon Jae-in to amend the law to allow abortions, according to the Economist. It calls for the government to approve the mifepristone abortion pill, which is available in other countries like the United States.
“Unwanted pregnancy is a tragedy for all, including the woman, the unborn child and the country,” the petition reads. The government promised it would respond to a petition if it garners more than 200,000 signatures in a month, and this petition has already gotten more than 235,000.
Abortion is illegal in South Korea with exceptions for rape, severe fetal defects, and if the woman’s life is in danger. Doctors who perform abortions or who provide South Korean women with abortion pills can face up to two years in prison and lose their licenses, but few doctors have ever been prosecuted.
Women have been regularly having illegal abortions however, because the government has historically regarded them as a kind of birth control and hasn’t attempted to regulate the black market on abortion pills. The South Korean government estimates that roughly 170,000 unborn babies are aborted every year in the country the Economist reports.
South Korea’s illegal trade in abortion pills has also been steadily growing in South Korea, despite attempts by law enforcement agencies to crack down on the trafficking of the mifepristone drug, according to the South China Morning Post. Reports of fake pills have also become increasingly common.
After a group called “Pro-Life Doctors” began reporting hospitals that were performing abortions to the police in 2010, religious groups and the president at the time — Lee Myung-bak — vowed to stop illegal abortions. Myung hoped the effort would raise fertility rates, but 2016 saw a rise in the price of secret abortions rather than an increase in the population.
Roughly 36 percent of South Koreans think abortion should be a crime, a significant decrease from 53 percent who felt that way in 2010, the Economist reported.
The constitutional court is expected to rule very soon to determine whether the country’s abortion laws violate women’s rights.
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