Big data analysis does not indicate any decline in the number of abortions over the last nine years, a report said Tuesday, contradicting claims by health authorities that it nearly halved during the period.
Legalizing abortion has come under heated debate, started by a petition posted on the website of the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae. More than 200,000 people signed on to show their support, requiring the office to issue a response. Senior presidential secretary for civil affairs Cho Kuk said the government will resume a survey next year on the number of and reasons for abortions, and start a public debate.
There are no official statistics on abortion. The last announcement by the health ministry in 2005 was 342,000 cases for that year.
Professor Park Myung-bae of Pai Chai University, with cooperation of the Yonsei University's Wonju College of Medicine, analyzed relevant material provided by the big data portal Data Lab from October 2007 to October 2016. The results of the analysis were published in the latest edition of the health journal Health Policy and Management.
The report concluded there were no indications that the number of abortions declined during the measured period. In 2010, the health ministry said the number had nearly halved to 168,000 that year.
"Some obstetricians and gynecologists estimate 700,000 to 800,000 abortions a year on average. This is far from the ministry's estimate," Park said in the report. "Realistically, since most of the performed abortions are illegal, the more precise estimate would be about 500,000 a year."
The report also noted that face-to-face or phone surveys on questions like having had an abortion often solicit lies in responses, making the results unreliable.
Data showed that online searches for abortion tended to increase the most in May, while they fell to the least in December and January.
One of the criticisms against the current law on abortion is that it punishes only women and people who perform the procedure, while men are free from any responsibility. Men often report illegal abortions to authorities as a means of revenge against their former girlfriends or wives. (Yonhap)