S. Korea Constitutional Court legalizes abortion

by Diana Chandler, posted Friday, April 12, 2019 (7 months ago)

SEOUL, South Korea (BP) -- Abortion must be legalized by 2020 in South Korea after the country's Constitutional Court ruled April 11 that a 65-year-old ban on abortion there is unconstitutional.

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The court ordered lawmakers to pass legislation by the end of 2020 legalizing the practice in the East Asian nation, BBC News reported April 11. The ban will remain until the new law is passed.

Meanwhile in the United States, Ohio became the sixth state to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, generally as early as six weeks' gestation, but such bans have not survived court challenges. Gov. Mike DeWine signed the bill into law April 11, approving the legislation after former two-term Gov. John Kasich twice vetoed such bills.

Kasich cited court challenges in his vetoes, most recently in January as his term ended, rejecting a measure lawmakers approved in December 2018. Fetal heartbeat bans have been blocked by courts in at least three states that have approved them, the Guttmacher Institute reported this month.

South Korea

In South Korea, only two of the nine justices voted to uphold the abortion ban, the L.A. Times reported.

"That we can debate the constitutionality of abortion laws at the moment is because we were born from our mothers without being aborted," the L.A. Times quoted dissenting justices. "We were all fetuses."

Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO of Americans United for Life (AUL), lamented the ruling as the adoption of an erroneous "Western Neo-colonialist notion" that abortion is a woman's right.

"It is a setback for human rights, and a tragedy for those South Koreans whose lives will be lost," Foster said in an April 11 press release, "that the South Korean constitutional court has embraced what is little more than a Western Neo-colonialist notion exported by Planned Parenthood and others."

AUL describes itself as the oldest national pro-life group in America, founded in 1971.

"The dissenting South Korean justices were right to note that debates over abortion can only ever occur 'because we were born' and that all of us were, at one time, 'fetuses'," Foster said. "To argue otherwise is to argue for the corrosion of the most basic of all human rights principles, which is the right to life itself."

South Korea's 1953 law banning abortion had been widely unenforced, news analysts said. An estimated 49,764 abortions were performed in South Korea in 2017, the L.A. Times reported, referencing a South Korean government survey. About 15 criminal cases were brought against abortion providers annually there in recent years, according to the survey.

South Korea follows Ireland, which legalized abortion in 2018 after voters approved a referendum overturning Ireland's Eighth Amendment. Approved in 1983, the Eighth Amendment had allowed abortions only to save the life of the mother.

Ohio

In Ohio, DeWine signed the fetal heartbeat bill just a day after lawmakers passed the measure.

"The essential function of government is to protect the most vulnerable among us, those who don't have a voice," DeWine said in signing the bill, NPR reported. "Government's role should be to protect life from the beginning to the end."

Fetal heartbeat bills could effectively block most abortions, it is widely believed, because many mothers are not aware of their pregnancies that early after conception.

Ohio Right to Life (ORTL) applauded DeWine for signing the legislation.

"Pro-life Ohio thanks Governor DeWine for taking a courageous stand on behalf of unborn children with beating hearts," ORTL President Mike Gonidakis said in a press release. "Governor DeWine continually stated throughout his campaign that he would sign the Heartbeat Bill, and he made good on that promise today. Ohio Right to Life thanks our legislative and statewide pro-life leaders for prioritizing this important legislation."

The "Human Rights Protection Act" includes an exception to save the life of the mother, and institutes criminal penalties for abortion doctors, NPR reported.

Abortions in Ohio totaled 20,893 in 2017, LifeNews.com said, referencing the Ohio Department of Health. Abortion has been legal in Ohio through 20 weeks' gestation.

The act is set to take effect in 90 days, but the ACLU and others have pledged to block the law in court, NPR reported April 11.

Federal courts have struck down fetal heartbeat abortion bans as unconstitutional in Iowa and North Dakota, and have blocked enforcement of a ban in Kentucky, the Guttmacher Institute reported this month. A fetal heartbeat ban is set to take effect in Mississippi in July, Guttmacher said, and the Georgia legislature passed such a ban in March.

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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