James Turnbull, of The Grand Narrative has a fascinating account of a Korean university student's attempt to procure an abortion in Korea. It includes being lectured about her loose lifestyle by a doctor (I've been told women buying birth control pills at a pharmacy sometimes also get "don't be such a floozy" lectures from pharmacists). It also discusses how the price has gotten way higher in Korea, because government officials think fighting to bring down Korea's high abortion rate (by persecuting doctors who perform abortions) is a good way to bring up the birthrate.
Which is about as wrong-minded as thinking that we can solve the traffic jam problem in Kangnam every day by raising the speed limits on the main roads, instead of by widening roads, improving bus lanes, discouraging the use of cars, encouraging development of telecommuting options, introducing congestion taxes in downtown areas, and building more subway lines. -- Abortions in Korea are a symptom of a larger problem, and fighting the symptoms doesn't solve the problem.
It's a complex topic, but here, in my opinion, is the choice:
1. Make pregnancy prevention education easily available, and make it easy (and non-humiliating) to obtain pregnancy prevention devices (birth control pills, prophylactics, etc.). This training should be for young men and women. Make birth control and morning-after pills over-the-counter. And fine pharmacists who receive a complaint for lecturing a woman on her lifestyle. Make the fine double for every repeat offense. He's a pharmacist, not a priest.
2. Make abortion affordable and accessible -- if you're not going to teach people how to avoid pregnancy, give them a way out of it.
3. Create/improve working social programs, daycare centers, and maternity protection laws, etc, that make sure that parents, and especially single mothers, no longer feel like having a baby will be the death of all her future career/education prospects.
Or maybe all three. Or at least one and three, so that if the religious right really does insist on banning
... or we could go back to exporting unwanted babies, like back in the '80s when Korea was one of the world's largest sources of overseas adoptees. Did you know back in 1998 Kim Dae Jung actually apologized to Korean overseas adoptees. (more about Korean overseas adoption here)
Somebody I love a lot is currently in the process of getting a masters' degree in Canada as a single mother. And I LOVE that in Canada, it's possible for a single mother to aim at a masters' degree, rather than inevitably resigning herself to a career waiting tables. Until single (and married) women in Korea feel like they will still have options even after a baby is born, the abortion rate will continue to be high, and the birth rate will continue to be low.
But go read the story of getting an abortion in Korea. It's a little bit heartbreaking.
In the comments, somebody asked me to link this blog, which is an account of a "foreigner" getting an abortion in Korea.
It's a single-post blog, and it includes the line "I will only list one abortion provider in the Seoul area, because I believe he is worth the travel time" ...I'm sure there are other clinics where one could find similarly compassionate, and English-capable help, to say nothing of those who do not live around Seoul. Condoms break in Busan, too.
If anyone has a link or reference for doctors in other parts of the country, or others in Seoul, or wishes to put some kind of contact information into the comments on this post, so that people can contact them for a recommendation, feel free.