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Court makes landmark abortion ruling
Ruling allows prosecution of medical staff and mothers
- Stephen Hong, Seoul
- August 24, 2012
The midwife was appealing against a clause in the Criminal Act, which stipulates that doctors, midwives, or pharmacists performing abortions upon request will be punished by imprisonment or fine. The clause also states that a woman who affects her own miscarriage may be prosecuted.
In making the ruling, the Court said that â€śthe right to life is the most fundamental of human rights,â€ť and that a womenâ€™s right of self-determination â€śis never more important than a fetusâ€™ right to life.â€ť
It added that if the reasons for allowing an abortion were extended to include social or economic factors, it â€śwould only make abortion more rampant and a trend to take life lightly more prevalent in society.â€ť
Currently, abortion is permissible in cases of pregnancy by rape or incest, certain kinds of genetic, mental or physical conditions of the parents, or if the motherâ€™s health is in danger.
Critics have said in the past that the government is lax in applying these criteria and allows abortion in a laissez faire manner.
Church people welcomed the ruling while womenâ€™s groups have denounced it.
Father Casimir Song Yul-sup, secretary of the Pro-Life Activities of the Korean bishopsâ€™ conference, told ucanews.com today: â€śAs human dignity is based on life, the ruling is natural.â€ť
But Father Song regretted the Courtâ€™s comment that life begins from implantation, as he fears it could be employed â€śto justify the use of human embryos and in vitro fertilization.â€ť
He cited the Churchâ€™s teaching that human life begins from the moment of fertilization, and claimed that many biologists support that view.
However Jung Seul-ah, a worker at Korean Womenlink, told ucanews.com the ruling deprived women of "the right to self-determination and to pursue their happiness.â€ť
She said the ruling â€śwould not help reduce abortions, nor prevent the spread of the trend to take life lightly.â€ť
According to government statistics, 342,000 abortions were performed in 2005, a figure which dropped to 169,000 in 2010.
Thousands protest against abortion
Bishop calls for health act revision