South Korean court sets up likely easing of abortion ban

South Korean court sets up likely easing of abortion ban

South Korean court sets up likely easing of abortion ban

Korea bans abortions at all stages of pregnancy, except in cases of rape and incest, the high chance of birth defects or significant health risks for the woman.

"The abortion ban limits women's rights to pursue their own destinies, and violates their rights to health by limiting their access to safe and timely procedures", the court said in a statement. "Now the National Assembly needs to move without delay to revise the law in line with this far-reaching court verdict and ensure women's rights are protected in law".

A woman in South Korea can now be punished with up to one year in prison for having an abortion, and a doctor can get up to two years in prison for performing an abortion. "Give choice to all women".

"Today's decision was made because countless women ceaselessly fought for their rights for so many years". It had survived a challenge in 2012 when the court split evenly, four to four, as one seat was vacant then.

Under Thursday's ruling, the ban will be automatically lifted on January 1 2021 unless new legislation is introduced sooner by parliament to follow the court order. It now bans abortions in the early stages of pregnancy and requires punishment for violation.

Women's rights activists and campaigners rallied outside the court in scenes of jubilation when the ruling was announced, after demonstrations had taken place to protest the ban on March 30.

A recent survey by the Korea institute for health and social affairs found that more than 75% of women aged 15 to 44 believed the law should be amended. In September 2017, more than 230,000 signed an online petition calling for the legalization of abortion and the abortion pill Mifegyne.

"My teacher told me if I don't leave school, he'd report me to the legal authorities", she said.

"If the case does not fall under an exemption, the law forces the pregnant woman to maintain the pregnancy completely and uniformly, without exception", the court said.

South Korea is one of only five OECD member states that do not allow such abortions, according to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. Data shows that there have been just 15 indictments for abortion every year since 2015, with many defendants receiving suspended sentences, according to Yonhap.

The watershed moment comes as the East Asian nation faces a growing, and unprecedented, women's rights movement inspired by the global #MeToo campaign and revolting against the patriarchal values underpinning South Korean society. Abortion, while illegal, was readily available at clinics and the law was rarely enforced.

While prosecutions were rare, they were not unheard of.

Out of the 14 abortion cases that were decided in lower courts in 2017, 10 postponed a ruling on condition that no crime be committed for a certain period.

Ham Sooyeon, leader of the non-profit Korea Pro-Life group, said before the ruling that rather than easing the abortion restrictions, South Korea should find ways to improve support systems for poor, single mothers and their children and change public views on single mothers. "The constitutional court has sent a clear message this must change, and in future the human rights of women and girls must be fully protected and respected".

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