|Members of the Joint Action for Reproductive Justice, a coalition of pro-choice groups, hold a press conference urging the government to completely abolish anti-abortion laws, in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, in this Sept. 28 photo. / Yonhap|
By Lee Hyo-jin
Korea will allow abortion within the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, while maintaining its current anti-abortion laws for those seeking abortions after this period, the Ministry of Justice announced Tuesday.
The ministry will officially pre-announce revision bills to the related Criminal Law and Mother and Child Health Law, Wednesday.
The move comes after a landmark ruling by the Constitutional Court in April 2019, which concluded that banning abortion in the early stages of pregnancy was a violation of the right to self-determination.
In line with the ruling, the court had recommended to guarantee women's rights to terminate a pregnancy within the first 22 weeks, after which a fetus can technically survive independently from the mother.
The revision bills from the ministry also include some exceptions to allow the procedure during the first 24 weeks, including when the pregnancy is the result of rape.
The pre-announced bills will be sent to the National Assembly after 40 days. If they gain committee and then Assembly approval, they will be implemented from January 2021, as the deadline for amendments to the current laws was set as Dec. 31, 2020.
The government's decision to partially retain the anti-abortion laws is expected to spark a public backlash from pro-choice supporters, especially from women's rights groups. They have been urging the complete decriminalization of abortion regardless of the length of the pregnancy.
"It is absurd to set the length of pregnancy as a standard to allow abortion, considering that every pregnant women's physical condition differs," said Hong Yeon-ji, an official at Korea Womenlink, one of the largest feminist groups in the country.
"We had more than 17 months to thoroughly discuss the topic following the Constitutional Court's ruling last year. But the government has belatedly come up with unilateral measures when we have less than 100 days left until the deadline," she added.
Under the current laws, a woman who has an abortion can face imprisonment of up to one year or fine of up to two million won ($1,704). Doctors can receive a prison sentence of up to two years for performing the procedure.