In May, Ireland passed a referendum that relaxed its laws on abortion, making the practice more accessible to its citizens. While the Pro-Choice movement continues to grow at an alarming rate in Western, traditionally Christian, countries, other cultures are finding themselves in a similar struggle with abortion. And because of the actions of one doctor, the issue has come to the forefront of Korean politics, demonstrating the universality of the debate.
Since 1953, in Korea, abortion outside of rape, incest, and health has been punishable by law. Women who engage in such procedures can face up to a year in prison. Doctors can receive twice the amount of time. A doctor who has performed almost 70 abortions within the last two years, and has recently been prosecuted, is now challenging this law.
The doctor remains unnamed by media sources, but it has been reported that his challenge of South Korea’s law has reached the Constitutional Court, the highest authority in the nation. If his case wins out, the court could deem the aforementioned law as unconstitutional, thereby nullifying it and opening the nation to accessing abortions.
Despite its stringent laws, it appears that enforcement of them has been very liberal. The Korean Women’s Development Institute, according to The Korea Herald, estimates that approximately 20% of women who have been pregnant have had an abortion. Out of this figure, only about 1% said they had a legal reason, being rape, incest, or health risks.
Support for legalizing abortion appears to be split, for now. Korea’s Christian population remains strongly Pro-Life, while an additional bloc concerned with low birth rates across the country has become prominent, as well. This group, which extends beyond any specific religion or ideology, could be key in preserving the nation’s laws. This marks a key difference between Ireland’s abortion debate, which seemed to morph into a discussion focusing on religion.
Also unlike Ireland, South Korea’s rule has a distinct clause. A part of the law that remains relatively unique to Korea is the requirement for a husband’s permission to carry out an abortion. This not only limits the practice to married women, but leaves the decision in the hands of their husbands, too. This could potentially work against the Pro-Life movement of South Korea, which could be accused of being sexist, citing the law’s dependence on the husband.
To say the least, South Korea technically remains quite Pro-Life in policy. However, the severe lack of enforcement remains concerning to both Pro-Life groups who insist on the protection of the unborn, and the Pro-Abortion groups that cite the lack of enforcement as a reason to get rid of the law altogether.
While Ireland and Korea differ in culture, the fact that the subject of abortion has become so prevalent in both countries illustrates how dire the fight for life is across the globe. At this point, more details are still emerging from the upcoming court hearing, though no date has been set for it yet.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a new deputy assistant secretary for population affairs, and she’s Pro-Life. Dr. Diane Foley is a women’s health specialist who has contributed to several Pro-Life causes and organizations throughout her career. Once the CEO of Life Network, a Pro-Life pregnancy resource center in Colorado, Foley has accepted a pivotal position in the fight to defend life.
As mentioned in a previous article here on the Oregon Optimist, President Donald Trump is considering a new Title X regulation that could prevent several Pro-Choice organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, from receiving federal funding. Now that Dr. Foley has been selected for her position, many Pro-Life advocates are eager to see President Trump’s plans come through. Her specific role oversees the Title X funding that Trump seeks to modify.
Left-wing media websites have been quick to attack Dr. Foley, labeling her clinics as “fake,” though there is little to evidence supporting such claims. Dr. Foley replaces Theresa Manning, another Pro-Life advocate.
As the President continues his avid support of the Pro-Life movement, scores of supporters hope for changes to come in national policy. Appointees, like Dr. Foley, serve as an example of the Trump administration’s efforts in fulfilling his promises made at the March for Life in 2018, the first annual march where a sitting president made remarks.
Oregon Right to Life is no stranger to endorsing, supporting, and providing information about political candidates. In June 2016, however, a bitter battle ensued between Republicans, that culminated in a lawsuit that threatened Oregon Right to Life’s first amendment right to communicate with voters.
Former Representative Matt Wingard (R-Wilsonville) was accused in 2012 of giving alcohol to a staffer under 21 and pressuring her into a relationship. This led to his stepping down from his position. Wingard ran again in 2016, and Oregon Right to Life (ORTL), alongside the Oregon Family Council (OFC), informed voters of Wingard’s action while in office. Soon after the fliers were printed and distributed, ORTL and OFC were sued by Wingard for defamation.
The lawsuit was filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, where the judge initially ruled in favor of Wingard. ORTL and other defendants appealed under an Anti-SLAPP motion. The Oregon Court of Appeals reversed the lower courts ruling.
Finally, as of June 11, the Oregon Supreme Court denied Wingard of his appeal, granting Oregon Right to Life a key victory in their legal battles. A statement was sent out to Oregon Right to Life supporters, reading, “This is a great day for us, but more importantly this is a great day for free speech in Oregon. The right to communicate freely with voters about candidates was upheld.”
Northern Ireland is an interesting case. Though a member of the United Kingdom, the region is exempt from a number of U.K. laws, primarily due to its connection to the Republic of Ireland. Technically, the U.K. could choose to enforce its laws, which openly allow access to abortions. However, several authorities have distanced themselves from the interfering for a number of reasons.
Politics in Northern Ireland remain quite conservative. For example, though same-sex marriage has been allowed in the U.K. for years, it is still illegal in the region. However, surveys from organizations, such as Amnesty International, claim that a substantial majority of citizens are in favor of legalizing abortion. This tension between conservative politicians and their citizens could lead to a climactic battle in the region.
For now, though pressure has mounted for the U.K. to act, it seems that Northern Ireland’s pro-life stance, which outlaws abortion unless the mother’s life is at risk, is at the mercy of its own political groups. Time will tell if the region decides to join its neighbor in endorsing the right to abort, though it seems like it could be a much harsher battle for both sides.
On January 19, hundreds of thousands of Pro-Life supporters gathered in Washington, D.C. to attend the March for Life annual event. The participants varied greatly in background and faith but were united under the central cause of eliminating abortion. The event had a significant backing from Christian groups, yet it is important to recognize the diverse array of religions that were in attendance, reflecting the broad base that the movement is welcome to expanding.
The presence of varied religious groups at the March for Life is evidence that pro-life is not beholden to any one religion. In fact, many religions have a moral position on life emphasizing the importance of respecting humanity from conception to natural death. The religions which have a moral position on life seem to sit on opposite ends of the spectrum and yet, the religions are united by their obligation to protect life.
A 2014 Ramussen Reports poll reported that over 71% of Evangelical Christians and 56% of Catholics identified as Pro-Life. This demonstrates Christianity’s great sway and consistent influence over believers, who are often found at the forefront of the cause. Pope Francis once stated, “It is necessary to reaffirm our solid opposition to any direct offense against life, especially when innocent and defenseless, and the unborn child in its mother’s womb is the quintessence of innocence.” Chocked with high-profile preachers and priests, Christianity has proved integral towards the sustenance of the Pro-Life movement.
The Washington D.C. annual March for Life website acknowledges the contributions of the Jewish community, as Cecily Routman, founder of the Jewish Pro-Life Foundation, alludes to a dire Gallup poll from 2016, where it was estimated that 76% of
Jews believed that abortion was “morally acceptable.” Routman has been working to reverse this trend, citing the Jewish scriptures as the basis of the Foundation’s mission, writing, “In Deuteronomy 30:19, our Heavenly Father clearly declares, ‘I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore, choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed.’ Routman seeks to engage the broader Jewish community in this effort and is looking to expand the faith’s involvement in Pro-Life matters.
The Islamic religion and its Pro-Life endeavors in America is small but growing. Ismail Royer is an American Muslim, who enjoyed participating in the March for Life in D.C. He has also begun reaching out to Christian leaders of the movement in an effort to increase Islamic engagement with the cause. In an article for The Washington Post, he states, “If our faith communities can find the strength and courage to reconcile, our witness can serve to help heal the country as a whole.” His core message in the article is a call for Muslims to work with their Pro-Life counterparts on a variety of issues, and he delivers a renewed request for acceptance and support from majority groups across the country.
The BBC has followed the Hindu view of Pro-Life, describing, “Traditional Hinduism and many modern Hindus also see abortion as a breach of the duty to produce children in order to continue the family and produce new members of society.” The Puranas, a sacred text of Hinduism, read, “Killing a Kshatriya [knight] or a Vaishya [Merchant] engaged in sacrifice, a menstruating woman, a pregnant woman…[and]..the embryo of a stranger is tantamount to killing a Brahmin [Priest].” Due to the urgency and commanding nature of such quotes, several Hindi have found themselves entering the Pro-Life camp, in support of such teachings.
Damien Keown, an expert on Buddhist bioethics at the University of London, remarks, “Buddhism believes in rebirth and teaches that individual human life begins at conception. The new being, bearing the karmic identity of a recently deceased individual, is therefore as entitled to the same moral respect as an adult human being.” With this understanding of the fetus retaining its own ability to participate in reincarnation, it also is protected by the first precept of Buddhism, which is “you must abstain from taking life.”
“All religions try to benefit people, with the same basic message of the need for love and compassion, for justice and honesty, for contentment.” The Dalai Lama’s wise words retain particular relevance to the United States, which prides itself in its diverse collection of faiths. However, the nation’s overwhelming number of Christians, ranging from about 70% of citizens, according to Pew Research, means that we often neglect the Pro-Life narrative of other faiths.
Echoing the Dalai Lama’s outlook on other religions, it is important for a greater understanding of all beliefs, as well as an appreciation for how they contribute to the cause of saving lives. Being Pro-Life does not belong to any belief system or denomination, rather it is an idea for all religions to contribute towards and participate in.