SOUTH KOREA: Court makes landmark abortion ruling

While it is good news that abortion in South Korea was not permitted to extend to consider economic and social factors, it is still unfortunate that abortion is permissible in cases of pregnancy by rape or incest, certain kinds of genetic, mental or physical conditions of the parents, or if the mother’s health is in danger.  


By dismissing a petition filed by a midwife, the Constitutional Court confirmed last week that medical personnel can be prosecuted for conducting abortions.  In making the ruling, the Court said that “the right to life is the most fundamental of human rights,” and that a women’s right of self-determination “is never more important than a fetus’ right to life.”  It added that if the reasons for allowing an abortion were extended to include social or economic factors, it “would only make abortion more rampant and a trend to take life lightly more prevalent in society.”

Church people welcomed the ruling while women’s groups have denounced it.  However, Father Casimir Song Yul-sup, secretary of the Pro-Life Activities of the Korean bishops’ conference, regretted the Court’s comment that life begins from implantation, as he fears it could be employed “to justify the use of human embryos and in vitro fertilization.”

According to government statistics, 342,000 abortions were performed in 2005, a figure which dropped to 169,000 in 2010.

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