As the world observes International Safe Abortion Day on Thursday, there is growing focus on the movement in Japan for safe and accessible abortion practices. The recent approval of the first abortion pill in the nation offers a glimmer of hope, but archaic rules governing consent — rooted in Japan's eugenics history — persist, casting a shadow on safe access.

The 1996 Maternal Health Act, which includes the spousal consent law, evolved from the 1948 Eugenic Protection Act, which opened the path for legal abortion. The former abolished eugenic provisions to create the law Japan follows today.

The current law stipulates that abortion must be carried out in the early stages of pregnancy with the consent of one's spouse.