The Korea Herald


Questions remain after passage of anonymous birth bill

By Park Jun-hee

Published : Oct. 8, 2023 - 14:35

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The National Assembly on Friday passed a bill allowing women to give birth anonymously at hospitals as part of its efforts to reduce the number of children denied registration at birth.

But concerns are growing over the anonymous birth system, which will be introduced in July next year, with some suggesting that it might lead to more mothers giving up their children, especially when it comes to children born with a disability.

Observers also say that the Protected Birth Bill still falls short of accounting for unwanted pregnancies and lacks protective measures for single parents.

The bill comes amid mounting public outrage over a series of infanticide cases that emerged after the government launched a nationwide probe earlier this year into the whereabouts of so-called “ghost babies,” or undocumented babies.

Single-mother civic groups in Korea have voiced their concerns over the new scheme, saying that it might increase the number of out-of-hospital births, as well as the stigma around single motherhood, as it requires hospitals to notify the local government of a baby's information within 14 days of birth through the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service.

They argue that this would push more single parents or mothers of unwanted pregnancies to give birth outside of hospitals to keep them a secret and their identities hidden. An estimated 100 to 200 out-of-hospital births occur annually, according to reports citing medical personnel. According to the Board of Audit Inspection report released mid-June, at least 2,236 children born between 2015 and 2022 in medical institutions were not registered with the government.

The bill also does not include registration for non-citizen parents, which would leave many foreigners unable to access basic services for their children.

Under the scheme, a child who is given up for adoption can request the disclosure of one’s birth certificate under the Child Rights Guarantee, but a mother can choose not to disclose her personal information, leaving the child unable to find information about their biological mother.

Despite these hiccups, however, Welfare Minister Cho Kyu-hong expressed hope that the enactment of the new law will allow women to give birth safely at a hospital, reducing health risks to mothers and their children.