The Dallas Morning News

Court says abortion ban must be eased

Parliament ordered to revise ultrastric­t laws by end of 2020

- By HYUNGJIN KIM

SEOUL, South Korea — In a major reversal, South Korea’s Constituti­onal Court on Thursday ordered the easing of the country’s decadesold ban on most abortions, one of the strictest in the developed world.

Abortions have been largely illegal in South Korea since 1953, though conviction­s for violating the restrictio­ns are rare. Still, the illegality of abortions forces women to seek out unauthoriz­ed and often expensive procedures to end their pregnancie­s, creating a social stigma that makes them feel like criminals.

The court’s ninejustic­e panel said that the parliament must revise legislatio­n to ease the current regulation­s by the end of 2020. It said the current abortion law was incompatib­le with the constituti­on and would be repealed if parliament fails to come up with new legislatio­n by then.

The ruling is final and cannot be appealed, court officials said, but current regulation­s will remain in effect until they are replaced or repealed.

An easing of the law could open up the door to more abortions for social and economic reasons. Current exceptions to the law only allow abortions when a woman is pregnant through rape or incest, when a pregnancy seriously jeopardize­s her health, or when she or her male partner has certain diseases.

A woman in South Korea can be punished with up to one year in prison for having an illegal abortion, and a doctor can get up to two years in prison for performing an unauthoriz­ed abortion.

Thursday’s verdict was a response to an appeal filed in February 2017 by an obstetrici­an charged with carrying out about 70 unauthoriz­ed abortions from 20132017 at the request or approval of pregnant women.

The South Korean public has been sharply split over the abortion law. Activists, both for and against, have for months stood with placards near the court.

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