Abortion Rights: Advocating for Safe And Affordable Access to Abortion in South Korea 1

Abortion Rights: Advocating for Safe And Affordable Access to Abortion in South Korea

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South Korean women and girls are unable to get necessary sexual and reproductive services even after the South Korean court ordered the government to respect the right to access abortion care.

Last month a South Korean court rejected an appeal by Women on Web(WoW), an NGO that provides information on sexual and reproductive health and rights and also a digital rights civil society organization, Open Net Korea to unblock the WoW website.

The Korea Communications Standards Commission blocked the website in 2019 following claims that it violated South Korea’s Pharmaceutical Affairs Act by connecting women who need abortion pills that have not been legalised in the country, to other pharmacists.

In 2019, South Korea’s Constitutional Court overturned the country’s long abortion ban. The decision left the next steps to the National Assembly which failed to reform the laws by the end of 2020, as required by the law, abortion henceforth became fully decriminalized in 2021.

Abortion Rights: Advocating for Safe And Affordable Access to Abortion in South Korea 2

The government has made little effort to update any laws leaving abortion in a legal grey zone and has created uncertainty about how and when women can afford safe abortions. Amendments are also required to include abortion as a medical procedure under the national insurance plan.

The lack of progress is not surprising given that the president was elected on an anti-feminist agenda and promised to abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. The government has started to abolish the word “women” from policies initially addressing women’s rights issues like violence against women with claims that there’s no systemic gender discrimination.

Data shows a whole different story. South Korea has the largest gender pay gap among the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. South Korea’s disregard for women’s rights to access abortion care is part of extreme gender discrimination.

The government should unblock the WoW website and amend laws, including legalizing abortion included in the World Health Organization’s essential medicines list- for women and girls to access safe and affordable abortions. This is important to protect their autonomy, well-being and health. According to South Korea’s Constitutional Court, it’s the law.

Abortion Rights: Advocating for Safe And Affordable Access to Abortion in South Korea 3 237

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