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Reviewing socioeconomic reasons for abortion in Korea

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  • Reviewing socioeconomic reasons for abortion in Korea
  • Lee, Mijeong; Kim, Young-Taek; Kim, Dong-Sik
  • Korean Woman's Development Institute


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Title Reviewing socioeconomic reasons for abortion in Korea
Similar Titles
Material Type Reports
Author(English)

Lee, Mijeong; Kim, Young-Taek; Kim, Dong-Sik

Publisher

Seoul:Korean Woman's Development Institute

Date 2011-12
Series Title; No Research Project
Subject Country South Korea(Asia and Pacific)
Language English
File Type Link
Subject Social Development < General
Social Development < Gender
Holding Korean Woman's Development Institute

Abstract

The abortion rate of the Republic of Korea remains high although it is banned by the Criminal Code with exceptions under the Mother and Child Health Law of Korea. Despite such a big gap between the law and its application, there has been lack of social discussions and debates on the issue. In the past, abortion has been addressed by the government in the context of population control. But going forward, it should be examined from the perspectives of the fetus’right to life and women’s rights to bodily self-determination. This study explored the public experiences and attitude toward abortion by looking at the published research data. Focus group interviews (FGI) were also conducted to deeply understand the public attitude toward abortion in which unwed mothers who had faced a dire dilemma concerning the issue were included as participants. According to the statistics between 1991 and 2010, more than half of the people in Korea supported abortion for women with unwanted pregnancies and for the cases where the pregnant woman and her spouse suffer financial difficulties, and this attitude continued for the last two decades. Though women are generally more open to abortion than men, the proportion of men who are pro-choice are by no means low; the surveys conducted in 2005 and 2010 showed 70 percent of male respondents supported abortion for unwanted pregnancies. While non-religious people are generally more tolerant about abortion than religious people, the proportion of religious people who are pro-choice are by no means low; according to the 2005 survey, 71.8 percent of the Protestant respondents, 65.7 percent of the Catholics and 80.5 percent of the Buddhists supported abortion for unwanted pregnancies. According to the 2008 analysis of KGSS (Korean General Social Survey), those groups of people – women, unmarried, non-religious, those with fewer children, who are not happy with their economic conditions, people with lower education – were positive about abortion from financial reasons. Non-therapeutic abortions due to non-legally permissible socio-economic reasons accounted for 85 percent and 99.4 percent of the abortions experienced by the married and unmarried women surveyed, respectively. Among the married women group, the proportion of abortions due to financial difficulties has been on a sharp rise in the recent years. The results of FGI were as follows: the ban on abortion should not be imposed without exceptions; pregnant women’s choice of whether to have an abortion should be respected as the burden they need to bear is extremely high they are against the crackdown on abortion as it is likely to increase the cases of abortion-in-secret, increase operation costs, and it may pose a threat to the health of pregnant women; the government should do more in terms of providing child-care related services in order to prevent unwed pregnant mothers and families in financial difficulties from having an abortion, and; the discrimination against unwed mothers in workplace and job market should be eliminated. The vast majority of the public seems to tolerate abortions performed due to socioeconomic reasons, which currently accounts for the majority of the abortion cases in Korea. Though inevitable abortions and the protection of women’s rights to choose are widely accepted by the general public, it is not yet reflected in the law, which the study suggests needs to be reexamined.