Thai lawmakers back amendment allowing early-stage abortions

Lawmakers in Thailand have voted in favor of allowing abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, a move opposed by the local Catholic Church.

In a late-night session of the Senate on Jan. 25, legislators voted 166-7 in favor of amending a law that criminalizes abortion, backing a plan that its promotors say seeks to tackle unregulated terminations by non-medical practitioners.

The amendment will allow women to have the abortion within the 12-week time frame for any reason. Under the amendment, an abortion after 12 weeks would be allowed only in certain conditions and would otherwise be punishable by up to six months in prison, or a fine of up to 10,000 baht ($334) or both.

“This means abortion is conditional and can only be done by doctors according to the law,” Senator Wanlop Tangkhananurak told Reuters.

The amendment was passed by the lower house last week and follows a Constitutional Court decision last February that ruled that criminalizing abortion was unconstitutional and violated human rights.

Under the new criteria, a termination after 12 weeks would be allowed if a certified doctor deems there is a high risk of fetal impairment, danger to the life of the mother, or if a pregnancy was the result of rape, deception or coercion.

Some pro-abortion activists have complained saying retaining penalties would maintain the stigma of abortion.

Father Pairat Sriprasert, director of pastoral care at the Catholic Bishop Conference of Thailand and Secretary General of Caritas Thailand, told that the Church has always been clear in its stand against abortion.  

“The rights of the unborn children need to be considered as well,” he said, adding that there are other options available for women to take beyond killing an unborn child.

Father Pairat stressed that the Church values life from the moment of conception.

A number of Catholic groups in Thailand are set to meet on Jan. 28 to hold an open discussion on abortion and how to promote a pro-life ethos in the country.

Before the Senate vote the Catholic Bishops Conference of Thailand (CBCT) asked the country’s bishops and heads of religious congregations to join a petition opposing of the amendment.

The nearly 400,000 Catholics in Thailand make up a little more than 0.5 percent of the country’s 65 million plus population. Abortion is also considered a sin akin to murder in the Theravada Buddhism adhered to by the majority of Thais.

With Reuters

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