Japan: the right to abortion reaches a consensus

Publié le : 21 March 2014

 Over 200,000 Japanese women have an abortion each year. In Japan, “abortion is considered to be a reasonable process” and citizens fail to understand those who are against this procedure. Since abortion is not associated with any guilt or shame, “the interviews that normally precede abortions in Europe are not held in Japan“. Mariko, a young 24 year-old woman from Tokyo who decided to have an abortion at the very start of her career when she was 9 weeks pregnant explains: “in this country, essential psychological support is not considered either before or after the procedure“. 

In Japan, the spirit of Buddhism and the belief in reincarnation justifies the fact that “there is no moral debate surrounding abortion“. The historical context has also had a major impact on legalising this right: “after the Second World War, Japan was faced with a real social crisis: 10 million people were suffering from hunger and the population grew between 1945 and 1950“. In 1948, Japan was the first country to legalise abortion. Nowadays, however, the baby-boom is in the dim and distant past, and the low birth rate poses a significant problem for Japan. In fact, for the first time since 1948, some voices are actually challenging the right to abortion such as Seiko Noda, a lawyer in the Chamber of Representatives, who made the following statement in Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s most widely read newspaper: “Abortion should be banned if we want people to have more children“. 

In addition to the low birth rate, reconciling a career and family life is a “virtually impossible task” in conformist Japanese society. After marriage, three out of five Japanese women give up their jobs as soon as they become pregnant with their first child. Mariko deplores this fact: “Society and even the employer would cast an unfavourable eye on a pregnant woman who continued to work“. 

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