Pro-choice groups welcomed the health ministry’s decision, but at the same time, they urged the government to include the abortion procedure itself under the state health insurance system.
“It is meaningful that it is the first time the government has included an abortion-related medical service in the public healthcare system. We hope such an approach will continue through to the guaranteeing of safe abortions for all women,” Na-young, head of the Joint Action for Reproductive Justice, a coalition of pro-choice groups, told The Korea Times.
However, she questioned the effectiveness of the measure, saying, “There may not be a big demand only for consultations on abortion, as what matters more is whether the women will actually be able to receive the procedure at a reasonable price.”
According to a recent survey conducted by the Korea Women’s Development Institute, 82 percent of women seeking abortion face obstacles due to high expenses.
“As the abortion surgery is excluded from the state insurance system, the prices vary by hospital and they are excessively highly priced in many cases, making it difficult for many women to receive the surgery within the early stages of pregnancy,” Na-young said. “Public abortion coverage is essential in order to prevent delays in surgery due to expense issues.”
The activist also criticized the authorities’ lack of effort in coming up with related measures after the criminal law on punishment for abortion was nullified as of Dec. 31, 2020.
“Although the pro-choice groups have been calling on the government to introduce follow-up measures and laws to guarantee reproductive rights of women seeking termination of pregnancy, the revision bills are pending at the National Assembly, while the health ministry has been delaying introduction of medical services citing a lack of legal basis,” she noted.