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[Newsmaker] Progressive groups, women oppose 'regressive' abortion bill



(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)




Controversy has intensified over the government’s bill to allow abortion until the 14th week of pregnancy, as progressive groups say the new law would remain in violation of women’s rights and the Constitution.

As a follow-up to the Constitutional Court‘s landmark ruling last year to revise the ban on abortion, the government unveiled its plan on Oct. 7 to press no criminal charges against those who have an abortion until the 14th week of pregnancy.

Under the planned revision, women who are less than 24 weeks of pregnancy can get an abortion only under special circumstances, such as a genetic disorder, rape, as well as social and economic reasons. Abortions that do not meet such criteria are to be punished by fines and imprisonment.

Pro-choice groups and campaigners fear the changes will bring back punishment for those who have an abortion. At present, abortion is illegal, but laws have rarely been enforced.

Reps. Kwon In-sook and Park Ju-min of the ruling Democratic Party plan to propose bills to scrap anti-abortion provisions of the Criminal Act.

“The government’s plan is an apparent historical regression that revived the abortion punishment rules that have been invalidated and found to be unconstitutional,” Kwon said.

She also said the plan is in stark contrast to international trends that focus on support and protection of the reproductive rights of pregnant women rather than punishment.

Lawyers for a Democratic Society, a progressive lawyer group, pointed out that the government’s amendment plan infringes on fundamental rights under the Constitution by stipulating that a woman who has an abortion after the 24th week of her pregnancy must face criminal charges.

“Women are given two options, either continue a pregnancy that harms their health and that could even put their lives at risk or terminating a pregnancy only to be punished with criminal charges,” the group said in a statement.

The debate also has been playing out online.

A petition calling on an outright abolition of the anti-abortion law and a guarantee of women’s reproductive rights, submitted to a petition board of the National Assembly on Oct. 5, has garnered over 43,800 signatures as of 5 p.m. Sunday.

The petition said that the law that bans abortion not only threatens the sovereignty of women‘s bodies but also their health. The petition also says the law persecutes people for their economic conditions.

“The government has been discussing meaningless matters like pregnancy weeks. The National Assembly should lay the legal groundwork for abolishing the anti-abortion law regardless of how many weeks pregnant a woman is to ensure a woman’s right to reproduce,” the petition said.

A standing committee of the National Assembly must conduct a deliberation on each petition that receives 100,000 or more signatures within 30 days of the day that the petition was filed.

A number of women who underwent abortions shared their experiences on social media with the hashtag #ihadanabortion, a movement initiated by movie director Bora Lee-Kil, who has been vocal on the issue.

They included those who had unintended pregnancies due to dating violence and abuse and a woman who suffered from poor health and menstrual irregularity as a result of an illegal abortion.



By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)
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