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South Korea Just Ruled An Anti-Abortion Law Unconstitutional

A 66 year-old law that rendered abortion a crime in South Korea has been overturned in a landmark decision that states the legislation was unconstitutional.

The anti-abortion law meant that women who aborted pregnancies could face up to two years' imprisonment and healthcare workers who assisted women with terminating pregnancies were also vulnerable to legal penalties.

Under the law, women could only procure abortions if their health was endangered, if the pregnancy was the result of rape, or if the woman's spouse had hereditary diseases that could potentially endanger the well-being of the child.

Reproductive rights protesters. Source: Getty.

Controversially, in all of these cases, married women still needed to establish permission from their husbands to go through with the procedure.

While women and physicians were rarely prosecuted -- and since the 1970s the government has actually encouraged people to have abortions for the sake of population control -- abortions remained risky and expensive for most South Korean women.

The movement to overturn the anti-abortion law was propelled by the prosecution of a female physician for performing over 70 abortions in 2017; the doctor challenged the court's decision, stating that the ban endangered women and limited their rights.

READ MORE: The Countries With The Most Brutal Abortion Laws

Feminist organisations such as the Joint Action to Abolish the Abortion Ban for All organised multiple protests to demand the review of the law, such as one 5,000-person strong march that took place in Seoul last year.

By the end of 2017, more than 235,000 people had signed a petition calling for an end to the abortion ban.

This week, the women's rights protesters took to the streets to celebrate the victory that secured their access to safe, legal abortion procedures. 

READ MORE: Man Who Confronted Anti-Abortion Protester Speaks Out: 'My Only Regret Is Swearing'

Pop singer Sulli posted on her Instagram next to an image of flowers that it was an "honourable day" and stated her support for the choice to be given to "all women".

Reproductive rights protesters celebrate after the anti-abortion law was ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court. Photo: Getty.

While the law is still theoretically enforceable for the moment, the courts have given South Korea's Parliament until the end of 2020 to amend the legislation or it will simply be considered null and void.