We Strongly Oppose the Legislative Process to Abolish the Anti-abortion Law
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (CBCK) expresses its deep regret on the news coming from the Committee on Gender Equality Policy, a consultative body under the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Korea. This Committee has submitted a policy advice to the Ministry proposing the abolition of the nation’s anti-abortion law regardless of the stage of pregnancy. Considering this, we would like to affirm our stance:
1. The said Committee has recommended the decriminalization and legalization of all abortions performed at any stage of pregnancy and the abolishment of related criminal laws. This recommendation is based on the pregnant women’s right to self-determination. However, a fetus’ right to life is no less important than a woman’s rights and happiness. Because the fetus is a separate and unique human being, its existence cannot be determined solely by the mother.
2. ‘The abolishment of the anti-abortion law’ violates the constitutional spirit to protect ‘a fetus’ right to life.’ In fact, the Constitutional Court has already made the following decision: ‘All human beings have a right to life according to the Constitution. This right also applies to a human fetus in the developmental stages. Although the fetus is dependent on the mother to maintain its life, in and of itself it is a separate entity from the mother and has a great potential to become sufficiently human unless there are special complications. Therefore, the fetus also has a right to life according to the Constitution, and the state has a duty to protect the fetus’ life according to Constitution Article 10, Paragraph 2.’
3. On April 11, 2019, the Constitutional Court ruled that the ban on abortion was unconstitutional. However, it recognized the protection of the fetus’ life as a public good. Regarding the absence of legal application to all cases of abortion performed at any time during pregnancy, the Court considered this as an ‘unacceptable legal vacuum.’ Unfortunately, the government is attempting to deny the fetus’ right to life and proceed with this legislation to abolish the anti-abortion law by accepting the said Committee’s recommendations. Such an action is to renounce the national obligation as declared by the Constitutional Court.
4. It should be noted that in many countries where abortion has been legalized availability is strictly regulated depending on the stage of pregnancy and the outcome of previous consultation with those considering abortion. Moreover, we cannot deny the fact that a late pregnancy termination is dangerous to the woman’s health. Those who advocate the abolition of the anti-abortion law justify their stance by suggesting that unsafe abortions are causes of death and illness among pregnant women. However, if abortions are permitted at any stage of pregnancy, it may be equally damaging to women’s health.
All issues related with pregnancy and childbirth are not solvable simply by eradicating the ban on abortion. Instead they can only be solved by changing current social cultures, which impose on women complete responsibility for both pregnancy and childbirth. Hence, the nation should recognize that eradication of the anti-abortion law will not provide an ultimate solution for such issues. The state should also make provision for a pro-life culture, which encourages society, nation and individual man and woman to take co-responsibility for pregnancies and childcare.
5. The Catholic Church adamantly opposes the media’s stance, which justifies and, at times, even seems to advocate for crimes against human life under the pretext of protecting individual happiness and freedom. Such an approach is also advocated by the state and is based on populism and extreme pluralism. This attack on human life in the early stages of development is regarded as an expression of ‘rights’ rather than ‘crimes’ against life and is based on the interests of the privileged classes and the logic of the majority. Therefore, the Church urges that national policies and laws be based not on the logic of the majority, but on universal human values and natural law: values such as human rights, common good, solidarity, love and justice, all of which are deeply rooted in a respect for human life.
6. The Catholic Church consistently affirms that human life must be respected as a person from the moment of conception onwards. In fact, it is believed that within 21 or 22 hours of fertilization genetic traits of both paternal and maternal lines are combined, the heart beats at the third week of pregnancy, and fetal brain activity begins around the eighth week. Therefore, the embryo or fetus that will later be born must be recognized as a complete person with an absolute right to life, which must be respected. The state must recognize, regardless of developmental stage, every human life is a precious human being. Only when this happens will Korean society be a place where human life is truly respected, and the culture of life promoted.
7. Governmental authorities must fulfill their obligations to safeguard the right to life and protect the weak. If the nation deprives a fetus of its right to life with excuses based on a woman’s rights to happiness and self-determination, it is infringing the inviolability of human life, abandoning the national duty to protect the weak, and moving towards the destruction of the social order. In addition to protecting women who are facing difficulties during pregnancy and childbirth, protecting the fetus, which is more fragile than the mother, is an inalienable national obligation. If the state fails to protect the vulnerable and innocent fetus, it will commit an injustice against life by failing in its duty.
We sincerely hope that our society will establish a fair system in which we take co-responsibility for pregnancy and childcare, and strive to be a ‘better Korea’ by building a respect for and culture of life.
August 28, 2020
The Korean Bishops