By Catholic News Service
SEOUL, South Korea (CNS) -- A South Korean Catholic bishop has criticized the country's existing policy under which abortion is legal and called on the country's lawmakers to engage in meaningful dialogue to ban the procedure after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a long-standing ruling that allowed for abortion.
Auxiliary Bishop Linus Lee Seong-hyoof Suwon, South Korea, insisted in an interview with the Catholic Peace and Broadcasting Corp. that the U.S. ruling is a clarion call for the nation to change its abortion policy, ucanews.com reported.
"The fetus has never violated a woman's right to self-determination. Life is innate and is a dignity that no one can invade through any ideology," Bishop Lee, chairman of the Committee for Life of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea, said.
In line with a ruling from the Constitutional Court in 2019 that said a ban on abortions was illegal, the South Korean government in 2021 decided to decriminalize abortion up to the 14th week of pregnancy.
In addition, abortions are permitted up to the 24th week of pregnancy in cases of rape and to protect the health of the mother.
Currently, six bills related to abortion are pending in the South Korean parliament. They include a bill seeking complete abolition of abortion as a crime and two bills seeking a ban on abortion after six weeks and 10 weeks of pregnancy, respectively.
Bishop Lee said the Catholic Church strongly opposes abortion no matter the age of the fetus.
"The church is resolutely opposed to the movement to abolish the abortion law in any case, regardless of the number of weeks," he said.
The prelate also criticized Catholic politicians such as U.S. President Joe Biden who opposed the overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court June 24.
Biden has said that he believes women have a fundamental right to abortion.
Bishop Lee said such support of abortion was tantamount to holding "anti-Christian views."
The prelate also slammed South Korean politicians, including Catholics, for endorsing the Assisted Dignity Justice Act, which would legalize physician-assisted suicide for ending the lives of terminally ill patients.
The act brings no dignity to patients because "helping terminally ill patients commit suicide is not mercy, it is preventing a soul from being saved," Bishop Lee said.
Since the 2019 Korean court order, the country has seen a rise in abortion cases. Government data revealed there were an estimated 32,000 abortions in 2020, compared to 4,800 in 2017.
South Korea's Mother and Child Health Act 1953 criminalized abortion. However, media reports suggested that abortion continued secretly because the law was not strictly enforced.
Women's and rights groups termed the ban discriminatory against women and called it part of a broader bias against women in society.
The BBC reported that a 2019 poll found 58% of South Koreans favored abolishing the ban on abortion.
The South Korean Catholic Church has long campaigned for the protection of life and opposed abortion based on church teaching on the "sacredness of life" that stresses that human life must be protected "from the very moment of conception."