Japan To Approve An Abortion Pill That Can Only Be Used With Partner's Consent
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The abortion pill is set to be approved in Japan by the end of the year, but there’s just one catch - women will have to first seek their partners’ consent before being prescribed.
While Japan will be catching up to the likes of Australia, which legalised the pill in 2006 and the United Kingdom which legalised it three decades ago, their consent law has been criticised by women’s rights groups.
Spousal consent is currently required for surgical abortions under Japan’s 1948 Maternal Protection Law.
The legislation to approve the medical abortion pill is progressing in Japan after British pharmaceutical company Linepharm International applied to market the drugs last year.
According to Bloomberg, Yasuhiro Hashimoto, a Japanese senior health official told a parliamentary committee last month: “In principle we believe that spousal consent is necessary, even if an abortion is induced by an oral medication.”
However, Mizuho Fukushima from the opposition Social Democratic Party was critical of the position.
She told the committee: “Why should a woman need her partner’s approval? It’s her body.
“Women are not the property of men. Their rights, not those of the man, should be protected.”
The current policy has had tragic consequences, with a 21-year-old woman arrested after her newborn baby was found dead in a park in central Tokyo, according to The Guardian.
She told the court she had been denied an abortion as she couldn’t obtain written consent from her partner as he could not be contacted.
Doctors had insisted that she obtain consent.
Kumi Tsukahara from the Action for Safe Abortion Japan, told The Guardian: “'Spousal consent' becomes an issue is when there is a disagreement with the spouse or the spouse is forcing the woman to give birth against her will.
“For women, being forced into a pregnancy they do not want is violence and a form of torture.”
Tsukahara noted that oral contraceptives were only legalised in 1999 after a nine-year legal debate, whereas Viagra was approved in just six months.
According to Statista, there were more than 140,000 induced abortions in Japan in 2020; however, it is one of only 11 countries that still require third-party consent.
In 2016, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women urged Japan to remove the spousal consent requirement.