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Sulli celebrates the end to South Korea's abortion ban

Protesters hold placards reading 'Abolish punishment for abortion' as they protest South Korean abortion laws in Gwanghwamun plaza in Seoul

South Korea's Constitutional Court yesterday overturned a ban on abortion that has stood for more than 65 years, saying in a landmark ruling that the current law unconstitutionally curbs women's rights.

Regarding the punishment of doctors who perform the abortion, the court ruled that "The provision of punishing a doctor who conducts abortion with the consent of a pregnant woman is also unconstitutional as it violates the Constitution by limiting women's right to self-determination". The nine judges gave the parliament in Seoul until the end of 2020 to come up with legislation to roll back the current restrictions.

Abortion has been illegal in South Korea since 1953, except in cases of rape, incest or severe hereditary disorders and where the mother's health is at risk.

Thursday's decision by the constitutional court marks a major victory for pro-choice campaigners, 66 years after the country banned abortions in all but a few cases.

Still, the illegality of abortions forces women to seek out unauthorised and often expensive surgeries to end their pregnancies, creating a social stigma.

It's not clear exactly how many abortions take place in South Korea.

The court said that abortion should be allowed before 22 weeks of pregnancy, citing an academic report that the fetus is able to survive independently after 22 weeks of pregnancy if supported by medical technology.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said, "It's about time South Korea heeded the voices of the majority of South Korean women who have today won the right to determine what happens with their bodies and their lives". "Catholic Church's teachings remain unchanged that abortion is a crime that kills innocent lives in the womb directly and can not be justified for any reason", Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea said in a statement. The doctor claimed the ban was against women's right to pursue happiness in terms of planned pregnancies and access to a safe medical procedure. "South Korean women are being denied reproductive choices that should be their right". According to prosecution data, there have been approximately only 15 indictments for abortion every year since 2015, and in many of them, the defendants received suspended sentences. Punishing abortions for social and economic reasons without exception is seen as unconstitutional because it excessively restricts women's right to self-determination.

Despite the restrictive law, abortions are widely accessible in South Korea and can be carried out safely. Doctors performing the procedure face up to two years in prison. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World. According to government records, there were only 15 indictments on abortion-related cases in 2013. In a survey by pollster Realmeter released last week, 58.3 percent of respondents favored abolishing the abortion ban, a number that rose from 51.9 percent since just November of a year ago.