Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Abortion Republic

I have been trying to understand abortion in Korea for the last few days. A couple of facts:
  • abortion is illegal with some limited exceptions
  • 350,000 abortions are performed a year according to official records
  • 1.5 million abortions are performed according to a number of experts and the Catholic Church
  • 450,000 children are born each year
If the estimate of 1.5 million is correct, then 3/4 of the pregnancies end in abortion. This number is about 650,000 more than the US for a country with a population of only 48 million. This is not a moral judgement, but a shocking fact (if true).

Why so many abortions? One reason is the huge social taboo on having children out of wedlock. According to surveys, most people do not have a moral problem with abortion, but they do with out of wedlock pregnancies. 1.6 percent of babies are born out of wedlock here according to a NY Times story, compared to 40% in the US. In the same article it quotes a recent survey that stated, "Only about a quarter of South Koreans are willing to have a close relationship with an unwed mother as a coworker or neighbor."

Strangely enough, it seems that pragmaticism versus a moral outrage is causing officials to look at reducing the number of abortions. Currently women average 1.19 births, far below the 2.06 needed to maintain the population. Facing the prospects of a collapsing population, the government is looking at range of measures including strictly enforcing existing abortion laws according to this article.

Even for married couples, having additional children is a huge burden. When I talk to friends about this, they say they would love to have more children, but it is just too expensive primarily because of education expenses. I think it would make sense to just make all education completely free like it is in the US. Given the culture of children attending classes after school, maybe school hours should be extended like Sandy's school- it finishes at 7:30PM-and make that free also.

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