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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Oct. 10)

All News 09:26 October 10, 2020

Abortive revisions
Gov't should pay heed to criticism on abortion law revisions

The government has made its plan public to revise the Criminal Act and the Mother and Child Health Act to allow abortion until the 14th week of pregnancy. According to the revisions, abortion will also be allowed conditionally until the 24th week of pregnancy based on social, economic and health reasons, in addition to cases involving rape or incest. To carry out an abortion, a woman should have a consultation at a facility designated by the government and undergo a 24-hour "consideration period."

The revisions come as a follow-up to the ruling by the Constitutional Court in April last year, asking the National Assembly to change the Criminal Act by the end of this year. The court ruled that two provisions of the act banning all abortion, at any stage of pregnancy, are unconstitutional as they infringe upon women's right to choose.

The revisions stipulate a total ban on abortion after the 24th week of pregnancy, which means a virtual revival of abortion punishment law in a stronger form. This can be described as "unconstitutional revisions" in a sense. It is also inappropriate the planned revisions have only the pregnancy period as a barometer for abortion permit regardless of the physical condition of the pregnant woman. There is likelihood that the revisions will fail to reflect the situations faced with juveniles or disabled people who are less sensitive to whether they are pregnant or not.

The Committee of Gender Equality under the Ministry of Justice came up with recommendations in August, calling for a repeal of the decades-old law, but to no particular avail. Women's activist groups had been calling for abolishment of the abortion law and they have been upset by the ministry's move toward revisions.

We need to make efforts to minimize abortion in order to protect the "small" life in the womb. But women's right to choose should be fully guaranteed. The need for "consultations and consideration period" is also inappropriate in that the World Health Organization dubbed it as neglecting women's rights to choose.

The core of contention in the issue of abortion lies in whether or not it is just for the state to punish women who choose to abort. It is not a matter of choice between women's right to choose and the need to protect the unborn. It has been a global trend to put top priority on women's health and rights. The government has 40 days until implementation of the revisions. It should listen attentively to the growing criticism and reflect the diverse voices in policies.

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