Abortion in Korea

Appeared in the Korea Times
11/30/2007 by Sean Hayes  (host of this blog)

Dear Sean, ― my Korean girlfriend is pregnant and we would like to abort the fetus. I was told abortion is illegal in Korea? What can we do? Full of Anxiety, in Gangnam

Dear Anxiety, Chapter XXVII of the Criminal Code prohibits procuring and administering abortions. However, in 1973, the Maternal and Child Health and the Mother and Fatherless Child Health Acts established exemptions from this prohibition.

According to the laws, a physician may perform an abortion if the pregnant woman or her spouse suffers from an eugenic or hereditary mental or physical disease specified by Presidential Decree, if the woman or her spouse suffers from a communicable disease specified by Presidential Decree, if the pregnancy results from rape or incest or if continuation of the pregnancy is likely to jeopardize the mothers health.

Even though the Korean legal system may punish those that procure and perform an abortion, prosecutors rarely prosecute those that perform or procure abortions because of the exceptions, the fact that doctors can fit their case into the exemptions, and the fact that the attitude of Koreans towards abortion has drastically changed since the imposition of the law.

Today, a woman that is pregnant in Korea that wishes to abort the fetus usually visits her local OB/GYN and the doctor usually performs the abortion or the doctor refers the patient to a clinic that will perform the abortion.

In Korea, an abortion can usually be performed up to 28 weeks from conception, but at the 28-week mark, the abortion may be detrimental to the health of the mother.

Statistics reported by the United Nations states that in 1996, 20 abortions per 1000 births occurred in Korea. However, the United Nations contends that the statistics on the actual number of abortions performed may be underestimated, since reporting is not mandatory, and most abortions are performed in private clinics.

The United States abortion rate is the identical rate of 20 abortions per 1000 births, but most abortions in the United States are reported. So it is likely that the abortion rate in Korea is somewhat higher than the abortion rate in the United States.

Accordingly, in Korea a pregnant woman has a viable option of choosing to abort the fetus. A pregnant woman should not forget, however, that other options are available including adoption, raising the child as a single-mother or getting married and raising the child as a family.

All too often many young couples choose an abortion without considering other available options. A plethora of online information is available to assist you and your girlfriend in making this very important decision.


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Korean Criminal Law

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