In A Country Where Abortion Is Illegal, Feminists Are Fighting Back in Black
Around 200,000 women have an abortion in South Korea every year, according to an OB/GYN who took part in a press conference earlier this month to call on lawmakers to decriminalize abortion. The medical industry estimates that only five percent of those abortions are legal.
In South Korea, the country I am ethnically from, abortion is illegal except in cases of rape, incest, and genetic disorders or if the woman or girl’s health is threatened by the pregnancy. Even in these extremely limited circumstances, abortion is absolutely illegal after 24 weeks. Now, the government plans to step up penalties on doctors who perform abortions, further limiting and criminalizing a woman’s right to her body, her choice, and her life.
While South Korea experienced rapid economic growth during the 1970s and 1980s, social change has been slower, with older cultural expectations continuing to influence gender stereotyping today. Even though I’m proud to be Korean-American because of all the technological advances and pop culture the country has contributed to the world, I cannot say I am proud of these harmful abortion laws that shape and perpetuate gender inequality in South Korea.
But I AM proud, excited, and energized by South Korea’s version of the “black protest” – a protest started by Polish women to protest their country’s proposal to ban almost all abortions. In South Korea, activists wore all black and used the black protest hashtag– in Korean (#검은시위)– to demand that the South Korean government stop placing stricter abortion restrictions and to decriminalize abortion, once and for all.
When I saw the news of activists peacefully protesting against stricter abortion laws in South Korea, I became angry at the reality facing South Korean women– limited control over their reproductive health decisions and the repercussions they face by calling out sexism in all its forms. But I also felt joy at the mobilization of these women who had had enough. Their anger, their discontent, and their knowledge that their country was better than this fueled their protest and, for the first time in a while, I saw hope that this country so important to me could really change for the better by having a government that respected, trusted, and empowered its women.
I am in solidarity with Korean women, Polish women, Irish women, and all those who struggle to access safe and legal abortion. To send your support, tweet out a message to the Korean people protesting against these harsh abortion bans, with the hashtag #검은시위 .