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Bishop calls for health act revision

Says Mother and Child Health Act 'effectively legalized abortions'

Bishop Gabriel Chang Bong-hun celebrating a special Mass yesterday 
Bishop Gabriel Chang Bong-hun celebrating a special Mass yesterday
  • ucanews.com reporter, Seoul
  • Korea
  • February 7, 2012
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A Catholic bishop yesterday called on the government to amend a reproductive health law that he said encourages women to have abortions.

Bishop Gabriel Chang Bong-hun of Cheongju, president of the Bioethics Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea objected specifically to Article 14 of the Mother and Child Health Act, which was passed in 1973.

“Article 14 … should be abolished because the clause encourages women to have an abortion,” Bishop Chang said during a Mass at Myeongdong Cathedral.

The Bishops’ Conference holds a Mass on the nearest Monday to February 8 each year, which was the date on which the legislation was originally enacted.

According to Article 14 of the law, an abortion can be performed in case of pregnancy by rape or incest, certain kinds of genetic, mental or physical conditions or if the mother’s health is in danger.

Critics of the law have pointed out that it was passed under the rule of a military dictatorship and has effectively legalized abortion because the government has been lax in enforcing it.

Thomas Cha Hee-jae, president of the Korean Pro-Life Doctors Association, said the law is regularly abused by people seeking an abortion for reasons outside its parameters.

He said he had heard of a man who took his sister to a sexual violence relief center after she accidentally became pregnant by her boyfriend. There, she was advised to claim that she had been raped.

“The worker new about Article 14, and so advised the woman accordingly,” said Cha, adding that the government should amend the clause immediately.

Local Church officials have estimated that 1.5 million abortions are performed annually in South Korea.

“The Catholic Church teaches that human life begins from fertilization. Abortions and the destruction of human embryos are heavy crimes that destroy life,” Bishop Chang told about 1,000 attendees of the Mass.

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