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Why the Korean Law that Prohibits Fetal Sex Prediction Must be Abolished

  • Korean Journal of Medical Ethics
  • Abbr : 의료윤리
  • 2021, 24(3), pp.317-334
  • DOI : 10.35301/ksme.2021.24.3.317
  • Publisher : The Korean Society For Medical Ethics
  • Research Area : Medicine and Pharmacy > General Medicine
  • Received : August 18, 2021
  • Accepted : September 15, 2021
  • Published : September 30, 2021

JUNG Chang-Whan ORD ID 1 CHOI KYUJIN ORD ID 2

1가톨릭관동대학교
2인하대학교 의과대학

Accredited

ABSTRACT

South Korea’s Medical Service Act of 1987 prohibits medical personnel from conducting diagnostic tests on pregnant woman for the purpose of predicting the sex of the fetus. This provision of the Medical Service Act was originally adopted to prevent sex-specific births and a gender imbalance in Korea, given the preference for sons that was common in Korean society at that time. Since it was first enacted, the contents and related penalties for this law have been revised. As of 2016, medical personnel who attempt fetal sex prediction before 32 weeks gestation are subject to having their license suspended for one year and being imprisoned for up to two years. Within the past decade, gains in women’s socioeconomic status in Korea have decreased or eliminated the long-standing cultural preference for sons. As a result, artificial interventions for the purpose of sex-specific births have almost disappeared. In a survey conducted in 2018, 97.7% of cases artificial abortion were performed in cases under 16 weeks gestation, when the sex of the fetus was unknown. In the case of genetic diseases, such as X chromosome-related diseases, it is medically necessary to determine the sex of the fetus. In the current context, in which the crime of abortion has been abolished in Korea, the remaining prohibition on fetal sex prediction is irrational. This article argues for abolishing Korea’s prohibition on fetal sex prediction both because there are legitimate medical needs for determining the sex of a fetus and because the original purpose of the law no longer exists, given the significant social changes that have taken place in Korean society since 1987.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.