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Thailand’s Catholic Church remains steadfast in opposing abortion

Picture of a figure representing a three-month-old fetus taken on March 12, 2008 at the altar of the Catholic church Nossa Senhora da Paz in Rio de Janeiro's Ipanema neighborhood where it was put to protest against abortion. (Photo by Vanderlei Almeida/AFP)

The Catholic Church in Thailand remains steadfast in opposing abortion as the authorities announced this week that it will legalize abortion up to 20 weeks.

As early as 2021, Thailand’s Catholic bishops urged the faithful to make known their opposition to the proposal to allow women up to 12 weeks pregnant to have an abortion.

In a letter to the faithful in January 2021, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Thailand said they had reaffirmed the Church’s position on abortion to Thailand’s House of Representatives, the Senate, as well as the chairperson of the Senate Standing Committee on Religions, Morals, Ethics, Arts and Culture.

This week Thailand announced that it will legalize abortion up to 20 weeks.

Terminations remained illegal in the kingdom — except under incidents of rape or threat to the mother’s life — until February last year when it was lifted for women up to 12 weeks pregnant.

However, there remains intense stigma around the procedure in the Buddhist-majority country, scarred by a 2010 case when around 2,000 illegally aborted fetuses were discovered in a temple.

Terminations of up to 20 weeks would now be permitted, a government statement said Tuesday, adding “the termination will not count as crime.”

Previously, abortion was punishable by either a fine of up to 10,000 baht (US$263) or six months in prison — or both.

A notice in the Royal Gazette Monday specified that women over 12 weeks pregnant but under 20 weeks seeking a legal abortion must fulfill certain criteria.

The government statement specified that people in this category must “consult with medical consultants so that the woman has all of the information before she decides to terminate the pregnancy.”

Despite the law change in February last year, abortion access across the kingdom remains limited and heavily stigmatized.

Deputy government spokesperson Traisuree Traisoranakul told local outlet Thai PBS that women seeking terminations must be treated with respect and in strict confidence.

She added they must be provided with all of the medical information and should not face pressure about the decision.

The new law will come into effect 30 days after the publication of the notice. – with a report from AFP

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