09/28/2022, 17.09
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Thailand legalises abortion up to 20 weeks

by Steve Suwannarat

The new rule comes into effect on 26 October. It expands on last year’s Criminal Code amendment authorising abortion up to 12 weeks after a Supreme Court ruling. Liberalisation is clearly the goal. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference and many Buddhist groups are opposed.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Thailand is set to extend abortion from 12 to 20 weeks in a new amendment of the Criminal Code, following a ruling by the Constitutional Court that authorised the practice as of 7 February 2021.

The new amendment will come into force on 26 October, making it easier for women to have an abortion who will only have to get information and consult a doctor.

Essentially, the government’s decision to further decriminalise the practice came in a statement released yesterday after it was published in the Royal Gazette on Monday.

In just 20 months, the government’s abortion policy went from strict prohibition (except in case of rape or danger to the mother’s health), including fines up to 10,000 baht (about US$ 260) with six months in jail, to almost full liberalisation.

Although widespread, the practice is not widely accepted in Thai society and the debate last year over decriminalisation met with strong opposition in a country steeped in Buddhist traditions that are strongly  centred on the universal respect for life and exert substantial influence on the population.

Although the country’s Buddhist authorities did not address the issue at the time, many ordinary Thais maintained a moral opposition to abortion, backed by other religious groups, like the Catholic Church, which was steadfast in its opposition to changes in the Criminal Code even though it represents less than 1 per cent of the Thai population.

A year ago, faced with the prospect of legalisation and claims by abortion advocates stressing  the need for the amendment to better protect women’s health and freedom in case of unwanted pregnancies, the Catholic Church in Thailand responded by emphasising the rights of unborn children and support for mothers.

Fr Pairat Sriprasert, head of pastoral outreach at the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Thailand, said that Catholics were against legalisation, which “sidesteps the problem but does not solve it”.

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