Thailand Approves Legislation to Pave Way for Legal Abortions

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Thailand’s cabinet has approved amending existing legislation to pave the way for legalizing abortion in the Southeast Asian nation.

The change in law, agreed to by the cabinet on Tuesday, aims to allow women to seek and have abortions up to 12 weeks into their pregnancy. Any attempts to curtail the termination of pregnancy within that time-frame would be deemed “an infringement of women’s rights,” according to Rachada Dhanadirek, a government spokeswoman.

“The law amendment will support and protect women’s and their unborn children’s rights equally and remove women’s motivations to seek out illegal abortions, which are not safe,” Rachada said.

Thailand’s existing laws do not allow terminations at all unless the woman’s life is at risk or the pregnancy is a result of rape, which the cabinet found to be a “restriction on women’s rights” and contradictory to the “the constitution which dictates people have freedom over their lives and bodies,” the government statement read.

Currently, women seeking a termination can receive a prison sentence of up to three years and a 60,000 baht ($1,980) fine. Under the proposed amendment the punishment for abortions beyond the 12-week limit would also be lower -- up to six months in prison, or a 10,000 baht fine, or both, according to the statement.

Restricting Rights

“The amendment still comes with conditions that restricts women’s rights, like the 12-week limit,” said Jittima Phanutecha, member of the Choices Network Thailand, a women’s rights advocacy group. “We will continue to fight to lessen conditions as it is being considered in parliament so women can have safe and full access to abortions.”

The Medical Council of Thailand found the time-frame of no more than 12 weeks to be safe and to pose no risks to the mother, the government said, adding the procedure itself is “painful enough for the person seeking an abortion, without needing the added pressure of a criminal punishment.”

The proposed amendment has been submitted to parliament for consideration, and the government expects the changed law to come into effect by Feb. 12 next year.

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