South Korea declares anti-abortion law as unconstitutional

Seoul [South Korea]: South Korea’s Constitutional Court on Thursday (local time) ruled as unconstitutional a 66-year-law that made abortion a crime punishable by two years imprisonment, signalling a major victory for those who campaigned extensively for the abolition of the strict and controversial legislation.

A panel headed by nine judges declared the ruling in a 7-2 vote, in response to a complaint filed by an obstetrician in 2017, who is on trial for performing multiple abortion procedures.

During the ruling, the court said that the anti-abortion legislation under the criminal law is against the Constitution and directed allowing termination in the early stages of pregnancy, Yonhap News Agency reported.
The court gave the South Korean Parliament a deadline of 2020 to revise the law. If the lawmakers fail to respect the deadline, the law would become null and void.

“(The current law) limits the pregnant woman’s right to choose freely, which is against the principle that infringements on a person’s rights must be kept to a minimum,” the court said.

It also termed the move unfair to give more importance to the value of protecting a foetus’s life, when the law violated the dignity and rights of a woman.

The abortion ban that came up in 1953 criminalised the termination of a foetus. However, there are exceptions only in cases of sexual assaults, incest, hereditary disorder or health risks.

Under the anti-abortion law, a doctor can be sentenced to two years in prison for carrying out the procedure. Likewise, a pregnant woman, undergoing abortion, can be jailed for an year or cough up a hefty fine of 2 million won (approx Rs 1.20 lakhs).