Abortion affects human rights of women say Korean Womenlink
Abortion will be tackled anew by the National Human Rights Commission (Korea), putting the most ethically-controversial “fetus removal” issue under the spotlight once again.
The human rights watchdog will hold public hearings, discussions and conduct media monitoring next year before it decides whether or not to advise the government to revise a pertinent law which imprisons women who get abortions.
If so, the administration may have to revise its policy, which they believe will help address the low birthrate.
According to the commission, the decision was made in response to a petition filed by Korean Womenlink that the law violates the rights of women and their freedom of choice. Currently, except for several restricted circumstances, women who get an abortion are subject to up to one-year imprisonment or up to a 2 million won fine. Doctors who perform the practice are also subject to prosecution.
The petition reads, “The current law shows no understanding of the circumstances of women who are forced to abort. Penalization is the last thing a government should consider because it could drive women to receive the practice in the dark. The regulation violates not only the rights of women to choose but also the right to live a healthy life.”
The commission explained that the United Nations also advises governments with such laws to make a revision. “It is true that the law does not reflect the social, economic and individual conditions of a pregnant woman. Some women go abroad for the practice, which could risk their lives,” an official of the commission said. “On the other hand, we need to have discussions to look into the rights of a fetus to live. It is a tricky issue.”
Indeed, abortion is a difficult and thorny issue in Korea as in the rest of the world. In the latest report by gynecologists here, there were reportedly 342,233 cases of abortion in 2005 while the number of births stood at 476,000 in the same year. Some birth experts said the actual number of abortions could be double or treble the reported figure.
The administration, which has been extremely concerned about the falling birthrate, set out to regulate abortions. The regulation was part of its plan to boost the birthrate, which marked 1.18 in 2008, one of the lowest in the world. Some doctors joined in by revealing the names of gynecologists and the clinics performing the illegal practice.
But some experts refuted that the prohibition has adversely created a black market, allowing incompetent doctors to perform operations that could put women’s lives at risk and charge them rather inflated prices.
In a seminar held to discuss the possible legalization of abortion, Prof. Kim Hae-jung of Korea University said some countries with looser regulations such as Japan, Australia and Canada have a lower rate of abortion than Korea, meaning that legalization does not lead to an increase in abortion. “Education on contraception should also be included as a measure,” he said.