Korean Physician Faces Death-Threats after Pro-Life Conversion
By Peter J. Smith
SEOUL, November 30, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - After two decades of watching too many patients cry too many tears, enough was enough for obstetrician Shim Sang-duk, who vowed that he would no longer perform abortions, a financially lucrative business in South Korea, reports the Los Angeles Times. But refusing to perform abortions in a nation dubbed the "Abortion Republic" carries a steep price for this doctor: Shim must live with death-threats from abortion seekers turned away and the knowledge that loss of profits from abortion could lead to the shuttering of his medical practice.
Nevertheless, Shim stands by his decision and is spearheading a movement of ob-gyn doctors to end the practice of abortion in Korea, by transforming the medical profession, and by encouraging the government to enforce a long-standing ban on abortion that has been routinely ignored since the 1970s.
"Over time, I became emotionless," Shim told the LA Times. "I came to see the results of my work as just a chunk of blood. During the operation, I felt the same as though I was treating scars or curing diseases."
Shim attributed his own pro-abortion mentality in part to the Republic of Korea's former population-control policy that for decades encouraged the medical profession to provide abortion and contraception to Korean women for patriotic reasons.
"I bought into the government's argument that it was OK to do this," Shim continued. "It was good for the country. It boosted the economy."
The government has now abandoned that policy, and has frantically moved in the opposite direction to save the nation from a self-inflicted demographic implosion that threatens to undermine the nation's economic and social survival.
However, Shim's own conversion on the issue of abortion occurred through observing the behavior of post-abortive mothers. He noted that most of these patients cried after abortion, but the tears disturbed him because they were quite unlike the tears of mothers after childbirth. "These were a different kind of tears," he said.
Shim performed his last abortion at the request of a longtime patient who begged him to kill her unborn child even though he had already stopped performing abortions. After giving her extensive counseling Shim relented, but the woman wept like the other post-abortive women Shim had seen, and that was the last time he broke his rule.
Patients who enter the lobby of Shim's Ion clinic can read a sign which explains his new pro-life outlook and where he stands on abortion: "Abortions, which abandon the valuable life of a fetus, are the very misery for the nation and society as well as pregnant women, families and ob-gyn doctors."
Abortion is a profitable business for obstetricians in South Korea. Given the exceedingly low birthrate (1.09) and the nation's abortion mentality, the practice becomes almost necessary from a financial point of view for the nation's 4000-plus ob-gyn doctors, as anywhere from 43 percent to three quarters of pregnancies end in elective abortion, not childbirth.
The Ministry of Health gives official figures for abortion at 350,000 babies aborted per year, while deliveries amount to 450,000 babies per year. However, a National Assembly inspection found in October that the number of Korean abortions could be much higher: 1.5 million per year.
In fact, over a third of ob-gyn clinics are geared toward abortion. The Korean Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimates that just 60 percent of ob-gyn clinics have the equipment to handle childbirth, while the number of operational ob-gyn clinics continues to decline steadily with over 200 clinics having closed between 2005 and 2008.
Shim's ob-gyn clinic made one-quarter of its profits from performing abortions, and now that he has stopped performing them, he says that many patients have stopped seeing him - so many that he may also have to close his practice. Some have made threats against his life for denying them abortions.
Nevertheless Shim told the Times that without abortion, he feels like "a young doctor again."
In order to fight abortion both in the law and the culture, Shim has founded an association called the Korean Gynecological Physicians' Association, which is encouraging other doctors to abandon the practice and has called upon the nation's abortion law to be enforced with penalties for doctors who flout the law.
Approximately 700 doctors have given the new organization their support, although Shim told the Times that so far only 30 physicians have agreed to abandon providing abortions.
Even so, the group has a website, which highlights those clinics that are abortion-free, and recently sent information flyers to 3400 of the nation's doctors reminding them that the unborn child or "fetus" has a "dignity to live."
Shim's efforts dovetail with official government efforts, which are finally coming to terms with the consequences of its short-sighted population control efforts. Just last week, the Presidential Council for Future and Vision announced an "Increase Koreans" project, which gives economic subsidies and privileges to women having more than two children, and looks to finally enforce to a greater degree the nation's near total ban on abortions in order to increase the nation's birthrate.
"We have been a society that promoted abortion," Kwak Seung-jun, leader of the Presidential Council, told reporters last week. "There are few people who realize abortion is illegal. We must work to create a mood where abortion is discouraged."
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