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Constitutional Court to rule on abortion on April 4

The Constitutional Court is expected to come up with a final decision on the constitutionality of anti-abortion law in April after a two-year review of the legislation. / Gettyimagesbank
The Constitutional Court is expected to come up with a final decision on the constitutionality of anti-abortion law in April after a two-year review of the legislation. / Gettyimagesbank

By Kim Jae-heun

The Constitutional Court is expected to come up with a final decision on the constitutionality of the nation's 66-year-old anti-abortion law in April after a two-year review of the legislation.

Last time the abortion ban was challenged in 2012, the court ruled in favor of it, but this time, there are growing whispers that it may be found unconstitutional given ideas that the anti-abortion law banning abortion during all periods of time from conception to birth is too harsh.

The current law does not distinguish a legal period for abortion and if the court decides abortion is illegal, then the National Assembly has to revise the law.

"The court did not give a verdict on constitutionality of the law on abortion on March 28 so it has decided to make a judgment on April 11, a week before two judges retire on April 18," the Constitutional Court official said. "A trial related to abortion will also be held on the day."

"The two retiring judges are cautious about making a ruling on abortion whereas three judges posted last year are prospective about it. So the two senior judges might not agree on making a final verdict giving reasons that new judges have a limited time to review fully," the official added.

However, another constitutional court official said during a media interview that delaying a final ruling again will cause criticism from the public and that the judges already have their own answer to the decision as issues like abortion and the death penalty are partly philosophical problems.

A woman who gets an abortion in Korea can face a one-year jail term or a fine of 2 million won ($1,850). A doctor who carries out an abortion can face up to two years in prison.

If the court disagrees on calling the law on abortion unconstitutional and calling for a revision, legal and medical circles will suggest alternative measures on allowing abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

In 2002, the court said the law infringes on a mother's right to self-determination as it bans abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The issue of constitutionality of abortion rose to the surface recently after the government conducted a survey on it. Many women have been having abortions because of their economic status that could make raising a child difficult.

Some 10,000 women participated in the online survey conducted by the Korea Institute of Health and Social Affairs (KIHASA) between ages of 15 to 44.

Among them, about 38 percent had become pregnant at least once and 19.9 percent of those had an abortion. At the time of the abortion 46.0 percent were unmarried while 37.9 percent were married. The other 13 percent were living with their partners out of wedlock.


Kim Jae-heun jhkim@koreatimes.co.kr


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