As of Thursday, South Korea’s Constitutional Court has ruled that a nationwide law that made abortion a crime was unconstitutional. According to The New York Times, the South Korean Parliament now has till 2020 to amend the law. As of now, the law is still in place, but if it’s not changed by the deadline, it will become null and void. The Parliament will also now be left to decide on other restrictions to abortion access, such as make it illegal to have one in the late stages of pregnancy.
The Times reports that the court called the 66-year-old law “an unconstitutional restriction that violates a pregnant woman’s right to choose.” (Under the law, exceptions include cases of rape or if a woman’s health is at risk.) Currently in South Korea, a woman who has an abortion could face up to a year in prison or be fined two million won, which is about $1,750. Doctors who perform abortions can also face up to two years in prison. But the law was known to be rarely enforced, and from 2012 to 2017, 80 women or doctors went to court due to being involved in an abortion with only one serving prison time.
According to TIME, Pai Chai University estimates that about half a million people have illegal abortions every year in South Korea, however because it’s illegal, it’s not possible to get accurate official data. TIME also reports that in late 2018, a government-commissioned poll reported that 75 percent of women were in favor of revising the law.