Thailand’s New Abortion Law: Is it a Good Idea?
Updated: Apr 15, 2021
Earlier this year, Thailand made a groundbreaking amendment to the country’s strict abortion laws. Women are now able to have an abortion as early as 12 weeks into pregnancy making, Thailand one of the most progressive Southeast Asian countries regarding reproductive rights.
In the past, Buddhists in Thailand have strongly opposed abortion, stating that the operation “goes against Buddhist teachings.” But there has been a recent surge of female nuns who are going against traditional gender roles, which could possibly help change the public’s opinion on abortion rights—if it hasn’t already.
Many Thai people also saw the rise in teenage pregnancies, the fact that many women didn’t have the means to raise a child, and the other deadly consequences of illegal abortions as reasons to repeal the once strict laws surrounding abortion.
Still, some pro-choice groups feel that even looser measures need to be put in place in Thailand. They argue that that the 12 week cutoff isn’t enough time for women to make the decision to have an abortion because some women don’t even know they are pregnant until they are 2 or 3 months into their pregnancy. Activists say women will still resort to deadly procedures if they are only given the option for abortion during the first trimester.
Even though this new law is helping to uplift women by giving them a sense of bodily autonomy, women can still be imprisoned and/or fined if they have an abortion beyond the 12 week time limit.
Before this breakthrough in February, Thai women could only get an abortion in the case of rape or if it posed a health risk for the mother. This procedure could only be performed by a licensed professional, and many were reluctant to perform the procedure due to societal pressures and/or personal beliefs. The women’s health clinics that provided abortions have also been described as dirty with hostile staff members.
In Southeast Asia, Vietnam leads the way with no set term limits for a woman to have an abortion. The Philippines remains the strictest in Southeast Asia, only allowing women to get an abortion if it endangers her life.