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Japan pushes abortion pill despite pro-life protests

Japan is a rich country that needs to rethink its position on abortion, says a pro-life activist
Children are seen in a school in Japan in this undated photo. Japan has been struggling with a demographic decline

Children are seen in a school in Japan in this undated photo. Japan has been struggling with a demographic decline. (Photo; AFP)

Published: April 27, 2023 11:51 AM GMT
Updated: April 28, 2023 06:43 AM GMT

The Japanese government plans to introduce an over-the-counter abortion pill in the country, ignoring protests from pro-life groups amid a demographic decline triggered by low-birth rates.

Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare panel has voted to approve the usage of a pill that allows pregnant women to chemically end their pregnancy up to the ninth week of gestation, Catholic News Agency reported on April 25.

The country’s health minister is expected to approve the usage of the pill which will enable millions of women to have access to the hitherto unavailable chemically induced abortion option.

Ligaya Acosta, the regional director of Asia and Oceania at Human Life International decried the government's move.

“This [panel approval of the abortion pill] makes us very sad,” Acosta said.

Japan recorded fewer than 800,000 births last year, the lowest in the country of 125 million since records began.

The move to approve the abortion pill has sparked concerns among pro-life and civil society groups.

Kazuo Sasaki, a 73-year-old pro-life activist, and hundreds of others had protested in front of the health ministry’s office opposing the move.

Sasaki had led daily rallies and even went on a hunger strike to protest the controversial proposal.

Acosta said that family and life are “very important to the Japanese people,” but many remain silent when it comes to the matter of abortion.

The Japanese "are people who are very committed to promoting and defending life and family,” Acosta said adding that “the Japanese are very pro-life people, but most are silent.”

Reportedly, hundreds of pro-life activists attend the annual March for Life in Tokyo which takes place every year around the third Monday of July during the national Marine Day holiday.

Acosta said the rally organizers are hopeful to have an increased number of participants this year.

According to Acosta, many women obtain abortions without proper knowledge of the after-effects such as the post-abortion stress syndrome.

Post-abortion syndrome describes a group of symptoms that some people believe develop due to terminating a pregnancy, reports Medical News Today.

Those who believe that abortions are uniquely harmful can have a specific mental health disorder, such as depression, with symptoms that include guilt, shame, and self-loathing.

The pill which is a combination of two drugs -- mifepristone and misoprostol -- has been developed by Linepharma, a British pharmaceutical company, and is widely regarded as the most common drug to induce a chemical abortion.

Mifepristone first became available in Europe more than 30 years ago.

In Japan, abortion is legal up to 21 weeks and six days of pregnancy, but only if a woman can prove that there is a risk to her health or likely to have financial hardship if she gives birth to the child.

A married woman can obtain access to abortion only if she has the consent of her husband.

Acosta pointed out that the Japanese government had promoted abortion during the economic crisis of World War II and urged for a change in the country’s approach towards abortion.

Japan is now “a very rich country” and should “start rethinking about their positions” on abortion, Acosta said.

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