A new directive from the North Korean government has made all types of abortion illegal, with punishments including fines for doctors and prison time of up to three years for enabling the procedures. Birth rates have fallen in recent years in part due to the high costs of child rearing, ranking the nation at 134 out of 224 countries by birth rate according to the CIA World Factbook.
The new policy builds upon previous government actions banning contraception and abortions that are not performed by a medical professional.
These policies could lead to a rise in unwanted pregnancies from the nation’s high levels of prostitution and sexual assault, in addition to fueling the already thriving market for back alley abortions.
Mothers had previously begun recommending that their daughters have intrauterine devices implanted, but must now do so illegally and could be severely punished for suggesting the mere idea.
Critics say the policy criminalizes what should be acceptable behavior, and that the government should focus on improving the nation’s quality of life so that its citizens actually want to have larger families.
One of the nation’s main problems remains food production. In the late 1990s, the country suffered famine-related deaths numbering in the hundreds of thousands. If the nation’s leadership improve in this most fundamental area of its citizens welfare, it would mean diverting resources away from its immense military.
North Korea, ruled almost solely by despot Kim Jong-un, adamantly refuses to do so despite the certain economic benefits.
The leadership in North Korea disperses a constant stream of propaganda to its citizens about its war with “Western imperialists” and uses this as one of its main methods of psychological control.
According to data by U.S. scholars Nicholas Eberstadt and Judith Banister, North Korea’s population will slowly grow to to reach 34 million people by 2045 and then begin a decline, while its neighbor South Korea’s population will stabilize at over 52 million by 2023.
With North Korea’s over 50-year history of repressive policies that are considered the worst in the world by the UN, the imposition of yet another policy limiting the freedom of the nation’s citizens may push it one step closer to the revolution it so badly needs.