A Catholic bishop in South Korea has called on the government to enact a law that would allow medical practitioners to refuse to perform abortions.
Bishop Mathias Lee Yong-hoon of the Diocese of Suwon said authorities should introduce “conscience objection” that allows doctors and nurses to turn down patients requesting an abortion.
“Healthcare workers shouldn’t be punished just because they refuse to perform an abortion procedure,” said Bishop Lee, new president of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Korea, reported Korea Times.
This month, South Korea’s Ministry of Justice announced that the government is set to “decriminalize” abortion and has decided to grant women the right to terminate a pregnancy within a period of 14 weeks.
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.
In April 2019, the country’s Constitutional Court declared the anti-abortion law unconstitutional and ordered the National Assembly to revise the law by the end of 2020.
The Catholic Church in South Korea has reiterated that abortion is unacceptable and against the pro-life teachings of the Church.
“Protecting the dignity of human life is a value that cannot be compromised,” said Bishop Lee.
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.
South Korea’s Catholic prelates earlier expressed hope that “our society will establish a fair system in which we take co-responsibility for pregnancy and childcare.”
In a statement issued in August, the prelates urged the country to “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.
In August, students from six universities in South Korea sent a letter to Pope Francis seeking support for the campaign against their government’s plan to allow abortion in the country.
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.