South Korea's Constitutional Court [official website, in Korean] ruled on Thursday that the nation's 59-year-old ban on abortions is constitutional. The eight-judge panel was deadlocked 4-4 [AP report] in deciding whether to uphold the abortion ban, but six votes were needed to overturn it. South Korea banned abortions in 1953 with exceptions for rape, incest and severe genetic disorders. The Constitutional Court also upheld a South Korea law [AFP report] on Monday that punishes midwives and other persons who help administer illegal abortions with a prison sentence of up to two years. The court dismissed a challenge to that law, saying that reducing the punishment would only lead to more abortions being performed.
Abortion rights have been a contentious issue in the international community. Last year voters in Liechtenstein rejected a proposal [JURIST report] to legalize abortion in the country after the acting Head of State expressed displeasure with the law and threatened to veto the proposed change. In 2010 the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) [advocacy website] criticized [JURIST report] the restrictive abortion laws of the Philippines as a "human rights crisis," resulting in the death of thousands of women annually. In January 2010 Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] argued that Ireland's restrictive abortion laws increase health risks to women [JURIST report] and expose them to deliberate misinformation about abortion procedures. In July 2009 Amnesty International [advocacy website] called on Nicaragua to end its total ban on abortions [JURIST report], calling for the country to eliminate severe criminal punishments for those who seek or perform abortions.