One Step Forward?
The Movement has Success in view… The Constitutional Court of South Korea recently struck down the Asia-Pacific nation’s laws prohibiting Abortion! It, indeed, is a landmark decision, challenging the 66-year-old ban that has become increasingly unpopular in recent times…
Seoul had enacted the law in 1953, declaring abortion illegal. Although the South Korean government somewhat relaxed the law in 1973, the law was there in existence! As per Articles 269 and 270 of South Korea’s Criminal Act, women would have to face up to a year in prison for intentionally ending pregnancy and doctors would face up to two years in jail for performing abortion, with exceptions allowed only in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape, incest, serious threat to a mother’s health, or even with the expectation that a child, yet to see the light of the world, would be born with severe deformity(ies)!’
On April 11, seven members of a nine-member Bench of the Constitutional Court ruled the Abortion Law as Unconstitutional! The Bench also asked the Parliament to amend the law, enacted in 1953, by the end of 2020. While two justices endorsed the constitutionality of the law, the majority recognised the government’s responsibility to protect the right to life of a foetus, saying that the anti-abortion law “excessively limits (a) pregnant woman’s right to self-determination“, and “violates the principle of balance by awarding unilateral and absolute superiority to protection of (a) foetus’ life” (do?)!
According to a survey conducted in 2017, 52% of the people in South Korea were against the anti-abortion law! Recently, 3,000 women – wearing black surgical masks – staged protests in Seoul, demanding the abolition of this law. The protesters, who had gathered outside the Constitutional Court on April 11, claimed that the husbands or lovers had often threatened women that they would use the law against them… Even the doctors used to demand a huge amount of money to perform these illegal operations. A doctor, accused of performing 70 abortions, had moved the court in 2017, urging the judiciary to strike down the decades-old abortion ban…
Immediately after the announcement of the ruling, the protesters greeted the court’s decision with cheers! Many of them started crying outside the courthouse. Some of the Women’s Rights Activists, Legal and Medical Experts, and Feminist Scholars declared victory, as the Constitutional Court Bench made it clear that the existing law would be automatically nullified in 2021, even if the Parliament did not amend the same!
It is to be noted that Catholics and Protestants have outnumbered the Buddhists in South Korea in recent times…
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