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(LEAD) Women's groups blast abortion crackdown

All Headlines 19:33 February 04, 2010

(ATTN: ADDS with more information about investigation from para 9)
By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, Feb. 4 (Yonhap) -- An alliance of South Korean women's groups called on the government Wednesday to protect women's rights to choose abortion amid a growing outcry about the number of illegal abortions in the country.

Their move came after the "Pro-Life Doctors," a group of anti-abortion obstetricians, filed a complaint with the prosecution earlier Wednesday against three obstetrics clinics, accusing them of performing illegal abortions and urging the government to take action to crack down on such practices.

"Women should not be forced to maintain an unwanted pregnancy," the groups responded in a joint statement.

Ten women's rights advocacy groups participated in issuing the statement, including the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center (KSVRC) and Korean Women's Association United (KWAU). "Efforts should be made first to improve the social and economic circumstances until most women can have other choices than abortion," they said.

Condemning any crackdown as a short-term solution, the women's groups claimed that those who choose abortion do so as the result of social and living conditions that leave them no other choice.

"Unless these conditions change, abortion cannot be eradicated. If the government attempts to crack down on abortions, it will lead to an increase in surgery being carried out by unlicensed doctors in unauthorized clinics. As a result, it will threaten women's health and even lives."

On Thursday, an official at a women's rights group urged the government to come up with longer-term solution.

"Punishment is not very effective in reducing abortion in the nation," Kim Doo-na, an official at the Gender-based Culture Team in KSVRC, told Yonhap News Agency. "Fundamental and long-term solutions by the government and the medical circle are required to protect women and eradicate abortion practices."

State prosecutors, meanwhile, said they will investigate the allegations raised by doctors opposed to abortion.

"Because there is considerable controversy surrounding this issue, prosecutors will carry out their investigations in an expeditious manner," an official source said.

He added that because there are allegations that abortions are carried out on a wide scale by many doctors in the country, prosecutors may move to expand the probe.

Under South Korean law, abortions are illegal unless there are extenuating circumstances such as the unborn baby poses a serious health risk to the mother.

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