Church cannot prevent abortion legally, but can make efforts for change with prayer, says Korean priest
The Catholic Church in South Korea has long campaigned for the protection of life and opposed the legalization of abortion. (Photo: Catholic Times of Korea)
Christians in South Korea say they will join a 40-day global campaign seeking to end abortion in the country through prayer, fasting, community outreach and daylong vigils in front of agencies involved in terminating births.
Pro-life Christian groups have invited the faithful to join in 40-Day Prayer for Life at Gyeongui Line Forest Road (also known as Yeontral Park), a popular forest trail and hangout destination in Seoul, from Sept. 22 to Oct. 31, reports Catholic Times of Korea.
A special prayer for the end to abortion has been composed and distributed, and Christian individuals and groups have been requested to hold prayers during the campaign period and beyond, for the protection of fetuses and unborn babies.
Due to the government’s pandemic restrictions, the participants have been asked to join in small groups by maintaining health regulations and physical distancing.
The 40-Day Prayer for Life is an international Christian campaign that was established by a pro-life group in Texas, US, in 2007 with the aim to end the “injustice of abortion.” The campaign has attracted up to one million volunteers in 1,000 cities in 63 countries, the group says.
Thanks to the campaign, some 19,198 lives have been saved from abortion, 221 people have stopped abortion-related businesses, and 112 abortion facilities have closed down until September, it added.
In June, pro-life Christian groups in South Korea — the Committee for Life of Seoul Archdiocese, Pro-Life Medical Association and Beautiful Picket, a pro-life non-profit organization, expressed solidarity with the campaign and announced its observance in South Korea.
The church cannot halt abortion legally, but it can still make efforts to bring change through prayer, says Father Park Jung-woo, secretary of the Committee for Life of Seoul Archdiocese.
“Although we cannot legally prevent abortion, we believe that we can bring about change in the present situation by praying with sincerity and trust in the Lord. It is also important to pray and fast with the same intention,” Father Prak said.
According to the 40-Day For Life group, abortion is a leading cause of human deaths in the world with an estimated 40 million abortions each year.
The Korean Church has long campaigned for the protection of life and opposed abortion based on the Catholic Church’s stance on “sacredness of life” that teaches that human life must be protected "from the very moment of conception."
In 2018, Korean bishops launched an anti-abortion petition that gained one million signatures.
Last year, the bishops met with and submitted a letter to President Moon Jae-in, also a Catholic, to voice their concerns after South Korea’s Constitutional Court ruled in 2019 that criminalizing abortion was illegal, paving the way for legalizing abortion in the country.
South Korea’s 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.
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.
An opinion poll in 2019 found about 58 percent of South Koreans favored abolishing the abortion ban, BBC reported.
In January this year, parliament passed legislative measures to declare the criminalization of abortion as unconstitutional and repeal the previous laws.
The Committee for Life of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea chairman, Bishop Linus Seong-hyo Lee, expressed dismay over abortion's legalization.
Bishop Lee said the church would continue the battle for the protection of life and 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.”
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