For some people, becoming pregnant in Japan is great news. It can be the start of an exciting new chapter of your Japan life, and a source of great happiness. However, for some women, carrying an unplanned pregnancy to term feels like an impossible prospect, whether due to financial constraints, social pressure, health or personal reasons. If this happens to you, you have options.
Depending on your home country, attitudes and regulations regarding abortion may be more or less lenient than you are used to. In Japan, abortion is legal if it’s related to preserving physical health, in the case of rape or incest, or for economic or social reasons. It is also not uncommon. Though slightly questionable due to underreporting, according to the Ministry of Health, in 2016 there were 168,015 abortions in Japan.
If, for any reason, you need to go through this frightening situation, here is some basic information on what to know before you do it — and how to be prepared for it.
What to know in advance
If you suspect that you might be pregnant and are considering termination, act quickly as it becomes more difficult (and expensive) to abort the further you are into your pregnancy. Medical abortion ("the abortion pill") is not available in Japan. The only option is a surgical abortion, which can be performed in many ob-gyn clinics in Tokyo. Abortion is legal until the third trimester, after which it can only be performed if the life of the mother is threatened.
Something that might be shocking to women from western countries is that Japan requires the consent of the father for an abortion to be performed. The only exception to this is if you can document that the father is missing, deceased, or that the pregnancy is a result of rape. In reality, however, the clinic will not verify who the actual father is, so if you are not comfortable with involving that father, you can ask (or bring along) a male friend to sign the consent form instead.
When booking your abortion appointment with the clinic, the staff will instruct you where to obtain the consent form and what to bring on the day of your appointment. Typically, the form can be downloaded from the hospital’s website, as in the case of Tateyama Ladies’ Clinic which we mention later in the article.
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