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South Korean Cardinale Andrew Yeom Soo-jung , Archbishop of Seoul. South Korean Cardinale Andrew Yeom Soo-jung , Archbishop of Seoul.   (ANSA)

Korean Church regrets court ruling on abortion

South Korea’s Constitutional Court ruled on April 11 that the country’s restrictions on abortion are unconstitutional. It ordered the law be revised by the end of 2020.

By Robin Gomes

A prominent Catholic Church leader in South Korea has expressed concerns that last week’s ruling by the Constitutional Court, declaring the country’s ban on abortion as unconstitutional, will have adverse effects on Korean society.

The Constitutional Court April 11 ordered the easing of the country's 66-year old ban on most abortions.  It ordered the law to be revised by the end of 2020. The decision is final and cannot be appealed but current regulations will remain in effect until they are replaced or repealed.

Protecting every life, always

“A nation has the responsibility to ensure the life and safety of its people under any circumstances. Every life, from the moment of conception, should be protected as a human being and secured with its dignity,” wrote Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung in an Easter message, reaffirming the Catholic Church’s pro-life stand.

In the message that will be read at the Easter Vigil Mass, Saturday night, the Archbishop of Seoul expressed concern that the court ruling will usher in an overall atmosphere of “neglect of life” in Korean society.

While some women’s and medical organizations welcomed the ruling, their opponents, including faith-based groups and religious communities, clearly expressed disappointment and regret.

Abortions have been largely illegal in South Korea since 1953, though convictions for violating the restrictions are rare. Exemptions allow abortions within 24 weeks of pregnancy for medical reasons, such as a hereditary disease or grave danger to the mother, or following rape.

Under current laws, a woman can be punished with up to one year in prison for having an illegal abortion, and a doctor can get up to two years in prison for performing an unauthorized abortion. 

Against culture and temptation of death

While urging lawmakers to carefully and deliberately prepare the amendment to the current law, Card. Yeom invited Catholics to be the first to choose life rather than death.  “We, people of God, should concretely serve and sacrifice for life,” he wrote.  “Among various social obstacles and difficulties, we, Christians, should strictly refuse the culture and temptation of death.”

Concluding his Easter message, he wrote, “When we, ourselves, start choosing, respecting, and respecting every life as it is, we will definitely be able to experience the Risen Lord living right here with us.”

Korean Church’s dismay

Earlier, in a separate statement on April 11, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (CBCK) also expressed dismay over the court ruling, vowing to continue defending every human life and assisting women and couples who chose to have their babies against abortion. 

The bishops said the sentence is not only denying the basic right to life of the foetus, who is a dignified human being from the time of conception, and who is incapable of defending himself or herself but is also taking the responsibility for unwanted pregnancies. 

They reasserted the teaching of the Catholic Church that abortion is a sin that kills innocent human life in the womb, and it cannot be justified for any reason.

The CBCK said its doors will remain open to women who suffer from emotional, spiritual, and physical wounds due to abortion and need reconciliation and healing. 

18 April 2019, 10:43