03/30/2019 10:00 EDT

HuffPost Her Stories: South Korea Could Finally Decriminalize Abortion

Plus: How Michelle Obama inspires girls across countries and cultures.

JUNG YEON-JE via Getty Images
South Korean pro-choice supporters hold banners reading “Decriminalize abortions” during a rally in front of the Constitutional Court in Seoul on May 24, 2018.

Dear reader,

Abortion rights are threatened globally, but long-term trends are moving in an encouraging direction. More than 25 countries have expanded abortion access since 2000, according to a 2018 report from the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights group.

The group’s analysis of abortion around the world also confirms what you might already imagine would be true: The less restrictive a country’s laws are, the less prevalent unsafe abortions are.

Shortly after the report came out, Ireland joined the list of countries to expand abortion access. South Korea could be next.

South Korea is one of the few developed countries in the world that bans and penalizes abortion under most circumstances. Both doctors who illegally perform the procedure and women who undergo it can face fines and jail time.

But attitudes — and the makeup of the country’s top court — are shifting, raising the possibility that abortion could be decriminalized as early as next month.

President Moon Jae-in nominated two progressive judges to the Constitutional Court this month, which could tip the balance of the institution. If confirmed, the judges could be on the bench in time to rule on a challenge to the ban in April, HuffPost Korea reports. But timing is important ― Korean media reports that the court could rule on the case by April 11, a week before the departing justices are set to retire.

A doctor initiated the challenge in 2017 after he was charged with performing 69 illegal abortions from November 2013 to June 2015. The Constitutional Court upheld the ban as recently as 2012, but public opinion has since shifted.

A widely cited 2018 poll of 10,000 South Korean women, for example, found than 75 percent of respondents between the ages of 15 and 44 believe abortion should be decriminalized. The National Human Rights Commission, an independent government body, also weighed in on the sensitive issue. In a statement to the Constitutional Court the group said the criminalization of abortion infringes on women’s rights “to self-determination, right to health, right to life and reproductive rights.”

Until next time,



For more on South Korea’s abortion debate, read the Human Rights Watch brief to the country’s Constitutional Court.


How Michelle Obama Inspired A Generation Of Girls Across The World

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Women and girls around the world are finding inspiration from former first lady Michelle Obama's memoir. 

Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, has sold more than 10 million copies in the five months since its release, more than half a million of which were sold in the U.K. HuffPost reporters there spoke with women and girls inspired by the former first lady’s story. The interviews show the breadth of her appeal — or the “Michelle Effect,” as it’s often called. Among her fans are a hijab-wearing teenager from south London who is inspired by Obama’s unapologetic resilience in the face of adversity and a white suburban mother trying to balance work and child care. “It’s hard to imagine that a book by the first black first lady growing up in Chicago in the ’60s and ‘70s could be that relatable to a white suburban mother who grew up in England in the ’80s and ’90s — but she pulls it off,” Catherine Barton says.

Viral Twitter Thread On Sexual Harassment Have People Asking, ‘How Do I Step In?’

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A Twitter thread about sexual harassment on a plane went viral this week, prompting HuffPost Canada journalists to dig into the question: What should people do when they witness sexual harassment and other bad behavior? Joanna Chiu kicked off the conversation when she tweeted that she had overheard an older man seated behind her asking his teenage seatmate for a “dirty” photo. When the man went to the bathroom, Chiu says she and another passenger intervened, telling the teenager she had a right to move and alerting a flight attendant. Sexual violence and education experts told HuffPost Canada that bystanders “cannot be silent.” Farrah Khan, the manager of Toronto University’s office of sexual violence support and education suggested the following easy-to-remember formula: A). assess for safety, B). be with others, and C). care for the survivor.

In case you missed it…