Let me introduce you to Minerva. As an average Korean woman she fortunately grew up with no experience of sexual abuse of any kind. She also did not have any thorough sex education so she is not fully aware of protection methods or how unprotected sex potentially causes pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. Unfortunately, Minerva represents the vast majority of Korean youth.
As a teen, she learns about sex through media like pornography and YouTube because her sex education at school is mostly occasional activities or lectures for only 17 to 34 hours a year. (Lee, 2016). As a young adult, she has a boyfriend who has also grown up receiving the same education. Minerva starts working at her new job when she realizes she is pregnant. She and her boyfriend are taken aback. She can barely afford to raise a child in Korea and she is hesitant to take maternity leave (An, Kwon, & Lee, 2018). She thought of abortion as many others do. According to Korea Institute for Health and Affairs, 33.4% said being troublesome in building a career, 32.9% said not being financially stable, 31.2% said not wanting a child were the multiple reasons for an abortion. Conditions that already allow abortion such as fatal health problems were around 10% and sexual abuse was 0.9% (Kim, 2019). By looking at Minerva, there are problems we all need to address.
Minerva thinks back to how she ended up pregnant. She did not realize the difference condom usage, cycle observation, and birth control medications could make. This is typical because even until university, students are constantly taught to maintain abstinence with no explanation or background information (Hur & Cho, 2007). This is because throughout their whole lives, Koreans have not been taught the practical do’s and do not’s of sex. We are raised with adults regarding sex as something shameful rather than natural and do not educate students on the risk of unprotected sex (Kim, 2014). In addition to protection and risks, we should learn to understand responsibilities equal of men and women of irresponsible sexual behavior, not allow abortion to compensate. Some people think that sex education is not that important at such a young age.
However, the average age of first experience for university students across the country is 11 for men and 16 for women, the frequency of sexual relations reaches its climax around ages 20 and 21, and most importantly, only 24.9% of both men and women knew to use protection (Lee, 2010). Imagine how many pregnancies that could have been prevented without abortion operations. Sex education in Korea is failing to fulfill this efficacy. Allowing abortion for accidental pregnancies is implying that abortion is the inevitable result of ineffective sex education without pursuing improvement.
Also, women like Minerva cannot seem to easily decide to take maternity leave. By leaving, other workers will have to increase work time and more contract workers will be needed (An, Kwon & Lee, 2018). This is not her fault but women are indirectly blamed for being pregnant and causing complexities in the workplace. For a policy with the intentions of providing welfare to its female workers, pregnant women are not comfortable benefiting from it. No one tells a woman to leave or not to leave but not only does she feel guilty for leaving, she feels she will have disadvantages later. Being a woman was already a social disadvantage in getting a job. Missing almost a year in the workplace degrades her competitiveness and level of experience that will not easily be recovered. This social inequality and pressure prompt women into thinking that pregnancy is a hindrance in building their career. The reality that women want abortion in response to social standards devaluing pregnant women should be enough to highlight the fundamental problems we really need to fix. Legal abortion for these problems will only postpone positive change.
What we are doing by legalizing abortion for pregnancies that are accidental and troublesome is taking the passive position. The first thing that we should be doing in regards to abortion is to analyze why so many women want it in the first place and how we can make amends properly. Abortion should not complement all the mistakes of sex education when it could have prevented countless unwanted pregnancies beforehand. It should not function as an escape route for numerous women who feel like they have to change in response to social stigma. Abortion will not change anything underneath the surface of the problems women face. In fact, women now and of the future generation will probably not recognize that they can change things and resort to abortion. Allowing legal abortion is a haphazard solution, neglecting the big picture, and besides the point.