Abortion in Japan

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Abortion is the choice to remove a fetus before the 28-week point of pregnancy. Many stigmas surround the idea and talk about abortion therefore, emphasis that abortion is an personal choice is lacked. This wiki page will specifically look at the stigmas around abortion in Japan while making comparisons from the past and future to understand how people's perspectives around abortion have changed. In doing so, I will make not of all religious, gender, and age divides in Japan with data and research to back up my findings.

Types of Abortion

The process is not simple but rather complex when getting an abortion. Types of abortion include induced, medical, and surgical but not all practices are used worldwide. Different practice methods are used during each trimester and stage of pregnancy that is deemed safe for the individual that is pregnant.

Induced Abortion

Induced abortion also known as medical abortion is an intentional abortion administrated by medicine. Most effective within the later trimesters of pregnancy. This type of abortion involves the use of many medicines of different strengths and effectiveness to deliver results and decrease the amount of bleeding that is involved in the injection of different medical fluids. The after treatment side effects of induced abortion are (a) mood swings (b) menstrual cramps and (c) irregular bleeding. [1] This method of choice is associated with many risks as induced abortion does require inserting medicines into the vagina, although the risks are slim, there is always a chance.

Surgical Abortion

Another type of abortion is surgical abortion which is a minor surgical procedure. There are two types of surgical abortion, Vacuum aspiration and dilation and evacuation. Both procedures require the woman participating to be at 6-16 weeks in her stage of pregnancy. [2]

Vacuum Aspiration

Vacuum aspiration is performed by inserting a tool called the cannula to the vagina where a light suction device is connected to extract the fetus and placenta. [3]. The entire procedure lasts 10-15 minutes and side effects include sweating, dizziness, cramping, and blood clots. One may prefer this type and method of abortion over the rest because it is shorter and delivers high success rates. For every time the procedure is performed there is a 99.5% of success and the other 0.5% times the procedure fails, it is then repeated.[4] In countries such as Japan, their methods of abortion are limited as abortion by the use of medicine is rarely available, therefore, this method is practiced more often in these countries.

Dilation & Evacuation

Dilation and evacuation is performed after 16 weeks of impregnation. The pre-procedure is similar to vacuum aspiration where antibiotics, numbing, and clamping of the cervix to remain open is a must. This type of surgical abortion then continues with the cannula being inserted while another device called the curette scoops out the lining removing and residuals. Finally, this process finishes with the suctioning of all the scraped lining to ensure removal of the residue is safe and sanitary. Side effects of this type of abortion may include bleeding, cramping, and damage to the uterine lining. [5]

Abortion Types in Japan

In Japan, abortion is a multi-step process that needs an economic and social reason, written consent from both partner and patient to continue with the procedure. Not only is the process complicated and strict, Japan does not encourage medical induced pregnancy terminations; therefore, abortion pills are not sold or distributed in Japan as much as other nations[1]. This type of abortion is not practiced in Japan because of the many health and medical risks and side effects that may occur to the patient. Instead, dependent on how far into the pregnancy the patient is two methods of treatment can be performed. Outpatient surgery for those in their 7-10 week stage and hospital/clinic assistant surgery for those over 10 weeks. [6] The greatest difference in the type of abortion in Japan versus Canada is the fact that after 12 weeks it becomes very hard to find clinics and hospitals to perform the procedure on you and when doing a procedure after 12 weeks, it becomes very costly.

Historical Background

Historical backgrounds on the topic of abortion dates back for as long as one can remember. Over time changes in stigma around abortion is changed and that is because of a new generation infusion into society which adopts and modifies the older generations way of thinking. The dominant religions in Japan are Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. These three religions view abortion through different spectrums and lenses. finish the rest of this intro


Buddhism in Japan was brought around in the 6th century and was able to successfully integrate with the native religion’s of japan like Shinto allowing both religions to co-exist. [7] On the topic of abortion, Japanese Buddhism has been seen at the border as some people believe it to be a sin of murder and others disregard it as an exception. However in Damien Keown’s (1998) book, Buddhism and Abortion, he explains how abortion is a modern idea. While emphasizing the fact that not all Buddhist should be represented the same, Keown looks further into the connection of abortion and the Buddhist religion. Buddhists in Japan differ from Buddhists in other parts of the world in the sense that they are more tolerable to the idea of abortion but of course some Buddhists more against the idea than others. As a result, many participate in a ceremony after the abortion treatment is done to please the aborted child’s feelings. Ultimately, ideas of abortion are linked with the practice of certain religions but it is up the individual themselves on if they see the idea of abortion as murder or a woman’s choice.

Legal Issues

Many laws and regulation surround abortion issues in Japan. According to the law in Japan, there are two types of abortion’s, illegal feticide and legal abortion (Miyazaki, 2007). The law prohibits feticide which is the abortion of a fetus as the fetus life becomes protected under the law. However, the Eugenic Protection Act established in 1945, allowed for safe abortion to secure and protect the health of the mother. Therefore, because feticide is illegal, the act legalizes abortion before the 22-week stage of pregnancy under the Eugenic Protection act. In 1996, these acts became revised and created problems as many had different attitudes towards the fetus’ life. As a result, abortion in Japan is not a simple procedure and has many requirements must be met therefore, illegal abortion has increased in the past years (Miyazaki, 2007).

Historically, abortion was criminalized in 1880 under the first penal code which increased the number of birth rates within this time frame. After World War II, ideas of overpopulation scared many nations and "was considered a threat to economic progress in light of postwar baby boom"(Mato, 2009) therefore, it was finally legalized and remains legal in Japan since 1948. [8] When it comes to the history of Japan in regards to abortion issues, Japan is seen to be late on the legalization of abortion and medicines promoting abortion but does legalize these practices as the nation puts its citizen's health and safety first.

Data and Research

Population growth, abortion rate, and infant mortality are all things that are monitored around the world. While monitoring the emergence, reemergence, and development of a population, abortion rates are linked to this understanding. The abortion rate is calculated by taking the number of legal and recorded abortions per 1,000 live births. This number is observed in order to determine countries population progress as well as the amount of services the country should be giving the citizens. Abortion rates are calculated to the best of the nations ability, in some cases determining a numerical value can be hard as laws and regulations can increase the number of unregulated illegal abortions that can not be tracked and recorded.

Abortion Rates

Abortion Rates Around The World.png

In Japan, the recorded abortion rate has declined after 1955 because of the rate of pregnancy of women after 1955 had declined overall (Sato, Shiraishi, Bando, 2008). As the overall rate has decreased the abortion rate for those women younger than 20 remain relatively high. This high rate is linked with stigmas towards teenagers as they are labeled unfit to care for a child economically and socially. Media has also played a huge part in emphasizing the fact that teenagers and young adults that become pregnant should abort the child unless they want to end up like those who are highlighted in Teen Mom, the 'reality' tv show for underage moms.

The Japan Times newspaper has noted that abortions in Japan has decreased from 40-50 procedures per 1000 women in 1950 to 9.3 procedures per 1000 women, a significant decline. Out of these abortion procedures, 95% of them have been monitored to be abortions within the first 11 weeks of pregnancy. [9] Another factor helping the decline of pregnancy and therefore abortion is the manufacturing of better quality pregnancy protection products such as condoms for both men and women and birth control pills. Increase quality as well as increased "preferability by nearly 80 percent of married women in Japan"(Mato, 2009) has helped to combat the once high abortion rates.

Influencing Factors

Some influencing factors to choose to have an abortion are partner relationship, fertility intentions, maternal health, psychological attitudes, and economic reasons (Sato, Shiraishi, Bando, 2008). Not only are these influencing factors weighing down on the woman's decision to abort or not but age and what generation that woman grew up in will also have an impact of her decision. With a vast majority of factors to keep into consideration, the decision of abortion is never an easy one.

Economic Living Conditions

When pregnant one must question if they can financially afford a child in their life. Money is always an aspect that should be taken into consideration as well as time and space. Will the impregnated woman be able to support the child financially? Are the living conditions of the partners house stable enough to bring in a child addition to the family? and, Do I have enough time to manage a child in my life? - all questions that run through the woman's mind when weighing her options of barring a child or abortion. The Japanese Healthcare Information outlines the cost of pregnancy and delivery. Unlike other nations, Japanese Health Insurence does not cover the costs of pregnancy and therefore the entire process costs about an average of 10,000 Japanese yen per check up (120 Canadian dollars). [10] On top of these weekly check-ups, delivery costs are 5000,000 yen to 1,000,000 Japanese yen (6-12 thousand Candian Dollars). [11] As a result, because of these high costs associated with giving birth in Japan, many choose abortion as a decision to combat their financial status. Hense the reason why the number of abortions with teenagers are relatively high as they are unable to pay for the costs of having a child.

Sex Trafficing

Another factor for abortion in Japan is linked to nations sex industry. On a global scale, Japan is known for its participation in human trafficking and sex trade which began early 1980's. [12] This massive industry targets women and forces them into the sex industry in order to pay off debt. These victims of human trafficking are often forced into the sex industry and spend years in the system abused, tortured, and neglected. With this field, unsafe and unprotected sex is accompanied there many of the women become pregnant. Mike Douglass and Glenda Roberts (2015) explain the way in which the sex industry in Japan works as well as notes the conditions in which these women are forced to live in as abortion is a limited option to most due to the fact that is it costly.



American Pregnancy Association Promoting Pregnancy Wellness. (n.d) Surgical Abortion Procedures. Retrieved from http://americanpregnancy.org/unplanned-pregnancy/surgical-abortions/

Bankole, A., Hussain, R., Sedgh, G., Singh, S., & Wulf, D. (2009). Abortion worldwide: A decade of uneven progress. New York, NY: Alan Guttmacher Institute.

British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). (n.d). What is Abortion?. Retrieved from https://www.bpas.org/abortion-care/considering-abortion/what-is-abortion/

Douglass, M., & Roberts, G. S. (2000). Japan and global migration: Foreign workers and the advent of a multicultural society. London: Routledge.

Goto, A., Fujiyama-Koriyama, C., Fukao, A., & Reich, M. R.. (2000). Abortion Trends in Japan, 1975-95. Studies in Family Planning, 31(4), 301–308. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/stable/172238

Japanese Healthcare Info (JHI). (n.d). Abortion/Termination of Pregnancy. Retrieved from http://japanhealthinfo.com/faq/abortiontermination-of-pregnancy/

Keown, D. (1998). Buddhism and abortion. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Mato, M. (2009). Abortion and The Pill. The Japan Times. Retrieved from http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2009/10/20/reference/abortion-still-key-birth-control/#.Vwd-sBMrKL8

Mensendiek, M. (2014). Human Trafficking and the Sex Trade in Japan. Global Ministries. Retrieved from http://www.globalministries.org/human_trafficking_and_the_sex_trade

Miyazaki, M. (2007). The history of abortion-related acts and current issues in japan. Medicine and Law, 26(4), 791.

Sato, R., Shiraishi, N., Bando, R. (2008). Induced Abortion in Japan, A Demographic Analysis of Its Trends and Causes.

WebMD (n.d). Women's Health: Manual and Vacuum Aspiration for Abortion. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/women/manual-and-vacuum-aspiration-for-abortion