Korean Court Strikes Down Abortion Ban


South Korea’s Constitutional Court has overturned a ban on abortion that has stood for more than 65 years. In a statement, the court said the ban, as well as a law making doctors liable to criminal charges for abortions done with the woman’s consent, were both unconstitutional. “The law criminalizing a woman who undergoes abortion of her own will goes beyond the minimum needed to achieve the legislative purpose and limits the right of self-determination of the woman,” it said in its ruling. Seven of the nine justices ruled the law unconstitutional, and two dissented. It had survived a challenge in 2012 when the court split evenly, four to four, as one seat was vacant then.


Abortion numbers have been dropping sharply, with 49,764 estimated for women between 15 and 44 in 2017, down from 342,433 in 2005 and 168,738 in 2010, as birth control measures spread and the population of women in that age range falls, says the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs.


A 2017 petition urging the presidential Blue House to scrap the law against abortion and allow abortion medication drew more than 230,000 signatures. At the time, a senior government official said existing law was problematic because it only held women accountable for abortion.


President Moon Jae-in, a liberal, has not stated clearly if he supports the law, but has called for more discussions to build consensus. The current law will stay on the books until the end of 2020, to allow time for its revision. In a statement, the government said it would respect the court’s decision and take steps to comply.

Reuters. April 11.

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