Last updated on June 17th, 2022 at 11:59 am
Surgical abortion in Japan has been legal since 1949 if the woman’s health, whether physical or mental, is at risk; for economic reasons; and in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. Except in the latter case and if the mother’s life is in danger, in order for an abortion to be performed, the partner also needs to give consent, although according to some accounts they do not go too far and are content to consider it a formality.
It is interesting to note that the cult of mizunoko, the “water children”, is alive in this country: the little ones who did not come into the world because of an abortion, elective or spontaneous, are represented by figurines collected from temples, wearing a red cap and apron, in an attempt to signify and soothe an acknowledged clear and obvious pain. In 2020, about 150,000 elective abortions were performed in Japan, although there is suspicion that this number is actually underestimated.
By the end of the year, as reported in The Guardian, Japan will also approve chemical abortion, with the combined use of mifepristone and misoprostol, now common in most Western countries. “The Japanese media say that the cost of a single dose could be about ¥ 100,000 ($ 780)”, the columnist writes, “about the same as a surgical abortion, and that women who take it will have to do so under close medical supervision, possibly including hospitalization.”
The partner’s consent will also be required in the case of chemical abortion, and this fact has woken the ire of pro-abortion activist groups in Japan, such as Kumi Tsukahara, one of the founders of Action for Safe Abortion Japan, who stated that “‘spousal consent’ becomes an issue when there is a disagreement with the spouse or the spouse forces the woman to give birth against her will.”
Politics also has its say, and while Yasuhiro Hashimoto, an official and spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, said that “in principle we believe that ‘spousal consent’ is necessary,” others are of a different opinion. This is the case for Mizuho Fukushima, an MP from the opposition Social Democratic Party, who believes that the high cost of surgical abortion and the requirement for consent force women to “[…] undergo unwanted pregnancies.”
“Women are not the property of men,” Fukushima declared in parliament, reports The Guardian again. “Their rights, not man’s rights, should be protected. Why should a woman need her partner’s approval? It is her body.” Well, not really. It is the body of her child.