The government of South Korea has proposed to “decriminalize” abortion and has decided to grant women the right to terminate a pregnancy within a period of 14 weeks.
On Oct. 7, South Korea’s Ministry of Justice announced that the government is set to review and adopt the proposed measure.
The termination of pregnancy will also be possible at 24-week term in cases of severe birth defects, sex crime, or health risk for the mother.
The public is given 40 days to submit their opinion on the proposed amendments before the bill is transmitted to the National Assembly for approval.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea earlier issued a statement opposing the decision of the Ministry of Justice, saying that children should be protected “from the very moment of conception.”
“The country has the duty to protect the life of all people,” said Father Hugo Park Jung-woo, secretary general of the Archdiocese of Seoul’s Committee for Life.
In a Catholic News Agency report, the priest said Koreans can make new laws or new policies “to help women to choose delivery instead of abortion.”
The Archdiocese of Seoul’s Committee for Life is calling for the revised law to include mandatory counselling for women considering abortion, financial responsibility requirements for biological fathers, and the legal ability for mothers to deliver anonymously due to the cultural stigma surrounding unwed pregnancies in Korea.
The archdiocese has also established a fund to support unmarried women who raise a child on their own.
Abortion in South Korea has been banned since 1953 and is punishable under the country’s Criminal Code.
In 1973, the anti-abortion law was amended allowing women to terminate a pregnancy in cases of rape, incest, health risks for the women, or hereditary or communicable diseases of the couple.
The South Korean Constitutional Court declared the law unconstitutional in April 2019 and ordered the country’s National Assembly to revise the anti-abortion law by the end of 2020.
In a statement released on Aug. 28, the South Korea’s Catholic bishops expressed hope “that our society will establish a fair system in which we take co-responsibility for pregnancy and childcare, and strive to be a ‘better Korea’ by building a foundation of respect for life and a culture of life.”
“The state must recognize every human life, regardless of its developmental stage, as a precious human being,” said the prelates.
Reuters reported that ahead of the court’s ruling, opinion polls showed around three-quarters of South Koreans supported dropping the abortion ban.
South Korea has a fertility rate of 1.1 births per woman, the lowest of 198 countries and falling far behind the global average of 2.4, according to the 2020 United Nations Population Fund report.