Japan is expected to approve abortion pills later this year although “spousal consent” will be required to receive a prescription.
Linepharma International, a British pharmaceutical company specializing in women’s sexual and reproductive health, applied for approval of their abortion pill in December 2021. The drug combines two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, and is currently being used in more than 70 other countries.
For surgical abortions, written consent from a woman’s partner is already required under Japan’s 1948 Maternal Protection Law. A senior health ministry official, Hashimoto Yasuhiro, told a parliamentary committee earlier this month that a partner’s consent is necessary, even if the abortion is done by oral medication.
Campaigners in Japan are demanding that health authorities change the rule, arguing that it violates women’s reproductive rights. A founding member of Action for Safe Abortion Japan, Tsukahara Kumi, said that obtaining a written consent from a partner can become an issue when a woman is being forced to give birth against her will by a spouse.
“For women, being forced into a pregnancy they do not want is violence and a form of torture,” Tsukahara said, according to The Guardian.
A lawmaker from the Social Democratic Party, Fukushima Mizuho, raised concerns over the potential price of the pill and is worried it may be more expensive than other countries.
“It is weird to require an approval from a spouse when taking a pill,” Fukushima said during a parliamentary hearing. “Is Japan still living in the middle ages?”
Many campaigners are arguing that Japan’s failure in approving abortion pills, which are already available in more than 70 countries, indicates the country’s lack of priority in women’s health. While oral contraceptives took around 40 years for approval in the country, Viagra, an erectile dysfunction drug, took merely six months to approve.