Korean clinic performs abortion on the wrong woman, police say
An expectant mother visited a medical clinic in Seoul last month to receive a nutritional dose, woke up hours later to learn she had undergone an abortion by mistake, police said on Wednesday.
Police said they planned to ask prosecutors to charge the clinic doctor and a nurse for accidental injuries. Police said the staff performed an abortion on the woman, a Vietnamese woman, who was six weeks pregnant.
The police did not identify the woman, doctor or nurse. There were no arrests.
A police investigator, An Chan-su, refused to confirm local news reports that the accidental abortion occurred after mixing medical charts and that the woman was mistaken for another patient seeking an abortion after a miscarriage.
In a landmark ruling in April, South Korea's Constitutional Court overturned a 66-year-old law that made abortion an offense punishable by up to two years in prison and granted parliament until the end of 2020 to review the law.
Under the current law, a woman who has undergone an abortion can be sentenced to up to a year in prison or a fine of up to two million won, or about $ 1,670. Abortion is legal in exceptional circumstances, including rape and incest or when a woman's health is at risk.
However, doctors can only be charged when they deliberately perform an abortion, not by accident, police said. They said that the current law does not consider the fetus a human, so the charge of murder does not apply in this case.
Despite the ban on abortion, the practice is widespread and the law is rarely enforced. In 2017 alone, 49,700 abortions were performed, nearly 94% of which were illegal, according to estimates by the government-run Korean Institute of Health and Social Affairs. The actual number could be much higher, according to civic groups.
Between 2012 and 2017, only 80 women or a doctor went to trial for their involvement in abortions, and only one of them spent time in prison, while the rest received fines or suspended prison sentences, according to court statements.
In its ruling, the Constitutional Court called the anti-abortion law "an unconstitutional restriction that violates the right of pregnant women to choose". But it was left to the parliament to decide whether abortion would be restricted in the late stages of pregnancy.