On September 22, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) announced the strengthening of the Abortion Ban Act, which includes strengthening punishments for obstetricians and gynecologists who perform induced abortions. This brought many women dressed in black to the streets. Although the government has since withdrawn their proposal due to strong opposition from doctors and women, the law still states that induced abortion is illegal except for five special cases. However, is the current policy of criminalizing abortion the most appropriate and effective method for reducing abortion in our society?
Few people would raise a moral objection to the idea that there should be fewer unborn children lost during the abortion process. However, it is a different story trying to reduce abortion by enforcing punishment and restricting it through government regulations. Many people argue that abortion is the murder of a fetus which had the potential to become a valuable member of society. They worry that legalizing abortion may increase the abortion rate and reduce the value of human life.
However, abortion is not an act of simply avoiding responsibility for casual sex. The reasons why some women choose to end their pregnancy is much more complex. In many cases, it usually involves chronic social issues, such as pressuring women to avoid the use of birth control, fewer professional opportunities for pregnant women and women with children, and the heavy economic burden of raising a child.
Although the number of abortions cannot be precisely measured because most operations occur under shadow, women under such pressure often choose to have an abortion even if it is illegal. Obstetricians and gynecologists have stated that they would no longer offer abortions under a strengthened law, and women would no longer be able to receive appropriate medical support and treatment, which could lead to fatal results.
In the case of Romania, which implemented the Abortion Ban Law Decree 770 from 1966 to 1989, the maternal mortality rate rose by almost seven times as women chose dangerous methods to self-administer abortions. This rate fell by half after the law was abolished. There were also more children raised in orphanages, which led to an increase in the infant mortality rate. Decree 770 did promote a rise in the birthrate for the first four years, yet it was only temporary as many women chose illegal procedures as a substitute, and the birth rate returned to its original state.
The example of Romania demonstrates how legal restrictions on abortion have negative consequences, leaving wounds on members of society, both women and children. The issue of abortion is not the classical dichotomy of choice between the life of unborn babies and the egoistic behavior of women. It is more about how society could aim to save both unborn babies and protect the rights of women, to provide adequate medical treatment and to punish one person alone for something that two people created together.
Intervention by the state in the private sector should focus on providing solutions to fundamental causes. This can include educating students about contraceptive methods, as Korea suffers from the low use of birth control by teenagers, who failed to receive appropriate sex education from this conservative society. Providing a better working environment for women with children and reducing the financial burden of raising a child though governmental policies can be more positive options for reducing abortion, which is beneficial for both women and fetuses. The criminalization of abortion and simply regarding it as an immoral medical procedure is not the finest path toward eliminating it.