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Debate Rages Over Ban on Abortion for Minors

Posted February. 09, 2010 07:46,   


An obstetrician in the western Seoul suburb of Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province, sent home a 14-year-old girl seeking help.

She said she had sex with a boy in her neighborhood while drunk and got pregnant. The girl said she learned of her condition in the sixth month of her pregnancy, but the seven obstetricians she went to all rejected her request for an abortion.

She said she desperately wants an abortion because she cannot afford a child since she and her mother live on welfare. She must also care for her mother, who is suffering from cancer.

One of the obstetricians she visited said, “I wondered if I was depriving a minor who was not properly educated about sex and who got pregnant because of one mistake of her opportunity to grow,”

“The boy had no problem going to school, but the girl had to bear the burden of being a single mother.”

More obstetricians are grappling with the dilemma of a baby’s right to life or a minor’s right to grow. Minors are finding it harder getting an abortion because a group of pro-life obstetricians have unveiled a list of clinics that allegedly performed abortions.

The Korean Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said, “We’re getting two to three phone calls a day about clinics that will do an abortion. We never got such calls before.”

The cost for an abortion has risen, making it more difficult for minors to get one. A post on an Internet homepage of an obstetrical clinic says the cost has doubled because of risk-averse clinics.

Under the Mother and Child Health Law, a minor is banned from getting an abortion. More underage girls are having sex and getting pregnant because of the lack of sex education, however.

An analysis of 2,529 postings on a Web page run by the association called “The Story of Contraception and Menses (www.wisewoman.co.kr/piim365)” shows 38 percent dealt with pregnancy due to lack of knowledge about contraception.

Fifty-one percent of teens asked pregnancy-related questions such as “My period is late” or “What are the symptoms of pregnancy?”

The controversy over abortion grows more complicated given a baby’s right to life and a teenage mother’s right to choose abortion. This is because both a baby and a minor need adult protection.

Anna Choi, spokeswoman for the Korean Prolife Doctors Association, said, “Minors account for just 3.6 percent of abortion cases. We are basically against abortion done for socio-economic reasons with no medical grounds.”

For the pro-choice side, Kim Hye-yeong, a researcher at the Korea Women’s Development Institute, said, “Minors who cannot stand on their own two feet fall into abject poverty when a baby is born. When they get pregnant, they lose their right to study, so there will be consequences if abortion is banned.”

Experts say effective education on contraception is needed and young single mothers must receive child support to prevent minors from resorting to abortion.

The Health, Welfare and Family Affairs Ministry plans to help young single mothers by offering them a monthly subsidy of 100,000 won (85.40 U.S. dollars) for raising a child and a yearly academic subsidy of 1.54 million won (1,313 dollars).