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Korean bishops urge protection of life, oppose legalized abortion

Catholic parishes will celebrate a Mass for Family and Life while May will be dedicated as Family Month

UCA News reporter, Seoul

UCA News reporter, Seoul

Published: April 21, 2021 08:58 AM GMT

Updated: April 21, 2021 11:23 AM GMT

Korean bishops urge protection of life, oppose legalized abortion

The Catholic Church opposes all forms of abortion based on the sacredness of human life. (Image: Pixabay)

Catholic bishops in South Korea have vowed to continue the battle for protection of life and urged parliament to formulate legislation to protect the life of the unborn child.

The Committee for Life of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (CBCK) made the appeal in a statement in the second year since the Constitutional Court ordered decriminalization of abortion in the country.

“I strongly urge amendment of the criminal law that protects the lives of the unborn child,” said a statement from the committee issued on April 15, reported The Catholic Times.

The statement, signed by committee chairman and auxiliary Bishop Linus Seong-hyo Lee of Suwon, also pointed out that for many years the country has experienced confrontation and conflict between pro-abortion and anti-abortion advocates.

Now, after the lifting of the ban on abortion “millions of fetuses conceived each year are exposed to the threat of abortion without any protection,” the statement said.

Abortion without any sense of guilt spreads the trend of “neglect of life” and the Church strongly advocates “sanctity of life,” it added.

The life of the fetus should be respected and protected according to human dignity

Reaffirming the Church’s position on abortion, Bishop Lee said: "This will further promote and accelerate a culture of pathological death such as infanticide, child abuse, perpetual murder and suicide, and a culture of anti-life leading to extreme egoism." 

The Church maintains that “the life of the fetus should be respected and protected according to human dignity” and “the legalization of abortion is the public recognition of murder.”

In order to emphasize the Church’s pro-life stance, Catholic parishes across South Korea will celebrate a Mass for Family and Life and May will be dedicated as Family Month to prioritize the Church’s mission to create a culture that values life and human dignity.

The Mother and Child Health Act 1953 criminalized abortion. A woman could be punished by up to one year in prison or a fine of a maximum of 2 million won (US$1,740) for having an abortion, while a medical worker who carries out the procedure could be sentenced to two years in prison.

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For years, women’s groups and rights campaigners have argued the law was against women’s right to choose what to do with her own body and also claimed the abortion ban was part of a broader bias against women in the country.

Following prolonged debate, the Constitutional Court on April 11, 2019, ruled that criminalizing abortion was illegal and ordered the government to end the ban on abortion by 2020.

The top court delivered the verdict after a female doctor challenged her prosecution for performing almost 70 abortions.

An opinion poll in 2019 found about 58 percent of South Koreans favor abolishing the abortion ban, the BBC reported.

In October 2020, parliament announced that a bill would be drafted to decriminalize abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy. Abortion for pregnancies resulting from rape would be permitted between the 15th and 24th weeks.

If the law cannot prohibit abortion, at least a woman who intends to have an abortion must first hear about its psychological, physical and mental consequences

In January this year, parliament passed legislative measures to declare criminalization of abortion as unconstitutional and repeal the previous laws.

The Church in South Korea has strongly opposed legalizing abortion, saying that “the right to choose makes sense only when the state helps women first make choices about childbirth.”

Korean Catholics have also been at the forefront against abortion. In 2018, they launched an anti-abortion petition that gained one million signatures.

On Aug. 20, 2020, an eight-member Catholic delegation led by Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul met with President Moon Jae-in to voice their concerns about legalizing abortion.

"If the law cannot prohibit abortion, at least a woman who intends to have an abortion must first hear about its psychological, physical and mental consequences through counseling before deciding," Cardinal Yeom said in a letter submitted to the president.

Despite the ban, abortion for unwanted pregnancies, which is widespread in South Korea, has been rife for years, but punishment has been rare.

According to the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, up to 2017 about 50,000 abortions were performed, but only 62 incidents led to an indictment and 13 to punishment.

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