North Korean authorities have issued a directive banning medical professionals from performing birth control procedures and abortions in an effort to reverse the isolated country’s falling birth rate, sources inside said.
“This central policy was announced at a lecture for health care workers on Oct. 8,” a source in the country’s northern Yanggang province told RFA’s Korean Service. “The new policy says that birth control procedures are illegal, and gynecologists who implant birth control devices in their patients will be punished by law.”
The directive also forbids gynecologists to perform abortions, although it did not indicate the penalty for doing so, he said.
The source surmised that medical doctors would have to pay a large fine if they are caught performing abortions.
If doctors who are not gynecologists perform such procedures, they will be sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison, he said.
But the policy does not give any details about punishments based on the number of birth control procedures performed, he said.
Voluntary ‘one-child policy’
Most married couples deliberately have only one child because of the high costs of education and child rearing, the sources said.
Because this in part has caused North Korea’s birth rate to rapidly decline, leader Kim Jong Un decided to impose a ban on birth control procedures and abortions, they said.
“Punishments for those who perform illegal abortions and use contraceptive devices are already in place, but this new policy bans all kinds of abortions and birth control procedures, including even those performed at hospitals,” said a source in North Hamgyong province.
He called the new policy “a drop in the bucket” that would not be effective, because unmarried women have illegal abortions or birth control procedures performed in doctors’ homes to ensure absolute secrecy.
North Korea’s birth rate ranks 134 out of 224 countries, territories and islands in the world this year, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook.
Its birth has fallen to an estimated 14.52 babies per 1,000 population from 20.43 per 1,000 in 2000.
With sexual assaults and prostitution now widespread in North Korea, many parents encourage their young daughters to have an intrauterine device (IUD) inserted to prevent pregnancy, the sources said.
But the government should stop interfering in women’s birth control methods as a means of forcing them to have many babies, and instead create a better economic environment in which to raise children, they said.
The central policy outlawing birth control procedures and abortions performed by doctors should be abolished because it “turns innocent people into criminals,” they said.
Reported by Sung-hui Moon for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Hyosun Kim. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.