The discovery of 2,002 foetuses at a Bangkok temple has revived campaigns to legalise abortion among legislators and women groups
Democrat MP for Rayong Sathit Pitutecha has proposed that a bill on “consensual and necessary abortion” be drafted to give women more options when dealing with unwanted pregnancies.
Mr Sathit said he would begin drafting the bill and campaign for support in the hope of submitting it to the House during the next parliamentary session starting in February.
The proposed bill would call for the setting up of a committee to consider an abortion request from a pregnant woman or her guardians. An applicant with “necessary qualifications” would be allowed to end her pregnancy, he said.
The law permits an abortion if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or if it endangers the mother’s life.
The Democrat MP said the law should be broadened to include other cases including pregnancy among minors or pregnancies among women who have insufficient mental capacity to rear the baby.
Only registered clinics would be allowed to perform the abortions, Mr Sathit said.
Democrat leader and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has insisted that there is no need for a change in the law to solve illegal abortions, as the law is based on Medical Council regulations which, in his view, are “good enough”.
Mr Sathit said he was trying to convince the prime minister that relaxing the law would reduce fatalities and accidents among pregnant women who undertake unsafe illegal abortions.
It would also put an end to the illegal abortion business and reduce family problems.
“Let me make it clear that legalising abortion is not liberising abortion,” Mr Sathit said. “The bill will not make it easier for a mother to end her pregnancy. Each case must be considered carefully by a committee of experts and social workers.”
Maytinee Bhongsvej, of the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women (APSW), said social workers and women’s aid groups had been pushing for an abortion law for more than two decades. Ms Maytinee does not think the discovery of foetuses at Wat Phai Ngern Chotanaram will be a turning point.
“People’s attitudes are the major obstacle. For Thai society, abortion is a sin,” she said. “But as a person working in this area, I think the bill will give mothers more options to deal with the problem of unwanted pregnancy.”
The sensitivity of abortion law has resulted in the exclusion of clauses that set criteria for legal abortions from a bill on reproductive health which has gone to public hearings, she said.
The APSW-run emergency home for women receives an average of 140 women with unwanted pregnancies every year, she said.
The APSW and 44 other state and non-governmental organisations working on women’s issues on Saturday issued a statement calling on the government to provide safe abortions for women to prevent them from using unsafe services at unhygienic, illegal premises.
“Abortion should be permitted if the woman has been raped, is younger than 15, and could be mentally and physically affected if the pregnancy is continued,” they said.
Kanrawee Daoruang, coordinator of the Choice Group which helps women with unwanted pregnancies, said a 2005 Medical Council regulation on ending pregnancies allows doctors to perform abortions under certain conditions.
However, no doctor dares perform them under this regulation because they fear criminal action.
She said the government should provide facilities to care for women with unwanted pregnancies. “If a woman knows that she still has somewhere to go and someone to help take care of her and the baby, she might choose options other than aborting the baby.”