South Korea soon may begin allowing unborn babies to be aborted for any reason after its highest court ruled against its 60-year-old abortion ban Thursday.
The country has protected unborn babies’ right to life in most cases for 66 years, allowing abortions only in cases of rape, incest and threats to the mother’s health prior to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
But in a 7-2 ruling Thursday, the South Korean Constitutional Court ruled that the abortion ban is unconstitutional, The Hill reports. The court told lawmakers to come up with a new law allowing abortions by the end of 2020 or it would repeal the current law completely, according to the report. For now, the court let the current law stand.
“If the case does not fall under an exemption, the law forces the pregnant woman to maintain the pregnancy completely and uniformly without exception even in cases where there are circumstances causing conflicts about abortion due to diverse, widespread societal and economic reasons,” the justices said in their decision.
Currently, abortionists and mothers who violate the law could face fines or jail time for aborting unborn babies; however, multiple news outlets noted that the penalties rarely are enforced.
The case before the high court was brought about by an abortionist who was charged for illegally aborting 69 unborn babies, according to The Morung Express.
On Thursday, the justices disagreed with these punishments, writing, “The law criminalising 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.”
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Here’s more from the Korea Herald:
In a landmark decision that overturned its 2012 ruling, the court ruled 7-2 that criminalizing all abortions — even in the early stages of pregnancy — restricts pregnant women’s rights to self-determination by forcing them to maintain the pregnancies.
The court saw that a fetus is considered as close to be a human being after 22 weeks of pregnancy. Before that period, women’s rights to self-determination outweighs a fetus’s right to life as giving birth and child-rearing have a “decisive” impact on women’s lives, according to the verdict.
The two dissenting justices wrote an opinion arguing that unborn babies should have a right to life.
The Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs reported 49,764 abortions in 2017.
Pro-life South Koreans have been working diligently against the push to expand abortions. Last year, they gathered more than 1 million signatures on a petition calling for continued protections for unborn babies’ right to life. The country witnessed its first annual March for Life in 2012.
Pro-lifers also have been urging the government to install nation-wide baby boxes, to combat the widespread problem of infant abandonment. The Rev. Lee Jong-rak led by example when he installed South Korea’s first baby box in his home in 2009. His story became known world-wide through the film “The Drop Box.”