South Korea has long prohibited women from having abortions, but the government may repeal the ban and announced Sunday that it will begin a thorough review of the nation’s abortion policies.
The Sunday announcement from the president’s office comes in response to a petition from a group of South Koreans calling on President Moon Jae-in to amend the law and allow abortions, according to The Economist. “Unwanted pregnancy is a tragedy for all, including the woman, the unborn child and the country,” the petition reads, asking the government to approve the mifepristone abortion pill, which is available in other countries like the United States.
“We expect to move relevant discussions one step forward,”civil affairs senior presidential secretary Cho Kuk said in a statement, according to Reuters.
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 received illegal abortions because the government has historically regarded them as a kind ohf 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 reported. (RELATED: South Koreans Push To Legalize Abortion).
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 then-President Lee Myung-bak vowed to stop illegal abortions. Myung-bak hoped the effort would raise fertility rates, but 2016 saw a rise in the price of secret abortions.
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.
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