SEOUL – The Constitutional Court of South Korea in a historic judgment ruled on Thursday in favor of amending an abortion ban law which has been in force since 1953, after considering it to be against the country’s constitution.
The court said that the law is unconstitutional and must be amended by the National Assembly, the country’s parliament, before the end of the year 2020 so that the law could allow abortion in certain cases during the early stages of pregnancy.
Seven of the court’s nine judges voted in favor of ordering the amendment of the law and the other two against.
The judgment also decided that punishing the doctors who carry out abortion was unconstitutional.
Carrying out an abortion is punishable with a two-year prison term for doctors.
Women who undergo a termination face up to one year in jail and a fine of 2 million won ($1,755)
The ruling comes 66 years after the law came into force.
Another law that was introduced in 1973 opened a way to legal abortion in certain cases including incest, rape, infectious diseases, inherited disorder in one of the parents or a danger to the mother’s health.
It is the first time in seven years that the court has handed down a decision on this issue. In 2012, it had ruled in favor of maintaining the law intact after eight judges were evenly divided over the issue.
The decision comes after an obstetrician, who was charged in 2013 for carrying out an abortion with the consent of the woman, initiated a challenge to push for the amendment of the law.
In central Seoul outside the court, the decision was received with joy by the group of activists who were pushing for the amendment of the law.
There was a heavy presence of security personnel outside the court which kept the groups of activists away from several groups who were against the amendment.
Recent opinion polls have shown that a majority of South Koreans is now in favor of the legalization of abortions.