THAILAND Bangkok legalizes abortion up to 20 weeks

The new measure will take effect on October 26. It updates a previous law introduced last year following a Supreme Court ruling, which ruled in favor of the possibility of terminating the pregnancy within a shorter period. It is evident that the liberalization of abortion is promoted. Opposed by the Thai Episcopal Conference, but also by many Buddhist organizations.

Bangkok () – Thailand is preparing to legalize abortion up to 20 weeks, extending the previous term of 12 established in the reform of the Penal Code, which has been in force since February 7, 2021. A decision that -at the time- had been driven by a ruling of the Constitutional Court against the criminalization of the interruption of pregnancy. As of October 26, when the new regulations come into force, the limitations to access an abortion will be less strict: information will only be required from women who request it and a medical opinion on the possible risks.

In fact, it is a substantial decriminalization, confirmed by the government in a statement issued yesterday after the publication of the law in the royal gazette on September 26.

In just over twenty months, the official position on abortion has changed. From the strictest prohibition -excluding pregnancies resulting from violence or that involve a serious danger to the health of the mother- and fines for offenders of up to 10,000 baht (about 280 euros) accompanied by prison sentences of up to six months- it has gone to a liberalization with very few restrictions.

This does not mean, however, that the practice, no matter how widespread, is socially accepted. In fact, the lead up to the approval of abortion last year (as well as the subsequent debate) has shown strong opposition in a country where Buddhism, with its insistence on the universal value of respect for life, continues to influence a part substantial population. The national Buddhist organization has not been outspoken on the issue. However, many citizens have maintained a moral opposition to abortion, backed by other religious organizations admitted to the country – among them, the Catholic Church, which has strongly opposed the new law despite representing less than 1% of the Thai population.

Last year, faced with the prospect of legalization, supporters of abortion emphasized the need for a measure that would better protect women – from a legal and medical point of view – in the event of an unwanted pregnancy. The Thai Church responded by emphasizing the rights of unborn children and support for mothers. The person in charge of the pastoral of the Thai Episcopal Conference, Father Pairat Sriprasert, declared then that the opposition of the Catholics is due to the fact that the measure “avoids the problem but does not solve it”.

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Written by Editor TLN

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