The arrest of a young 17 year-old girl after she attempted to perform an abortion on herself with drugs obtained over the internet has sparked a renewed debate on how these sensitive cases should be handled.
Abortion is one of the most controversial and emotionally charged topics one can discuss or write about anywhere in the world. Opinions are strong and emotions flare easily.
A strict uncompromising stance on abortion would be considered by many as a fundamental part of Buddhist and Thai values (See Wikipedia). This is also true for the Philippines which is mostly Catholic (See Philippines , Reproductive Health Bill and also article on all religions).
However, in many western countries, up to a certain point in time, a woman is legally free to choose abortion if she wishes (See pro-choice, Roe vs. Wade and abortion in the US).
Strangely enough, worldwide what people know and believe about abortion in their own country is usually far from the truth. Even though abortion is illegal, it is far more common than people think often performed with the collusion of the local police (Watch Yale lecture).
Of course, abortion is not the only issue that provokes a strong religious response in Thailand. Many years ago Chamlong Sri Muang spearheaded protests at the Stock Exchange of Thailand against an IPO by the company that owns Chang Beer. Subsequently, Chang Beer did its IPO in Singapore instead (Read article).
Recently, some have claimed that covering bottles of alcohol with horrific pictures to discourage alcohol use could drive away tourists and harm Thailand's tourism industry while not really preventing alcohol use (Read article).
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Persecuting the victims by Lamphai Intathep
Thai abortion law has it wrong. Teen girls who fall pregnant deserve sympathy, not censure.
A 17-year-old high school student found in a pool of blood after performing a near-fatal abortion on herself could be charged with breaching the abortion law.
A conviction for attempting an abortion carries a potential jail term of up to three years.
The girl (name withheld) lost consciousness and was found soaked in blood at an apartment room in Huai Khwang district last month after using an abortion drug to terminate her pregnancy. She obtained the drug on the internet.
A Trat woman has been arrested for allegedly supplying an abortion drug online to the girl.
Women's groups say taking legal action against the girl underlines what is wrong about abortion law in this country - that women who seek abortions are regarded as criminals rather than victims and deserve social censure, not sympathy.
They say the girl's case illustrates that the country's approach to tackling abortion is not working.
The teen pregnancy rate here is the highest in Asia, despite what critics say is a punitive abortion law.
The girl performed the abortion on herself when she was eight months into pregnancy.
She was portrayed in the media as a symbol of the moral decadence and sexual promiscuity said to be typical of teen girls in modern Thailand.
Women rights groups maintain, however, that condemnation and legal punishment will not help ease the problem of unplanned pregnancy. Safe sex education and better services for pregnant women and young mums, they say, will.
She obtained abortion pills from the internet when she was already five months into pregnancy," said social activist Supensri Pungkoksung from the Friends of Women Foundation, which will represent the Mathayom 6 girl in court.
Hers was an act of desperation because she had no one to turn to.
Abortion is legal only when the pregnancy endangers a mother's life or when the pregnancy is caused by rape and incest.
Otherwise, women who attempt abortion face a jail term of up to three years and/or a fine of up to 6,000 baht.
Women who have an abortion also face harsh social stigma as sinners.
All previous attempts to amend the abortion law have failed due to fierce opposition from religious groups.
But the anti-abortion law has failed to deter teenage pregnancy.
World Health Organisation figures show the global average number of pregnancies for every 1,000 girls in the 15-19 age group is 65.
It is 56 in Asia. In Thailand, it rises to 70, higher than the global average and the highest in Asia.
Abortion is inevitably a solution when unwed teenage girls face harsh social stigma in a society which fails to provide them with safe sex education, proper counselling and other services such as half-way homes for unwed mothers and foster and adoption services, said Nattaya Boonpakdee, coordinator of Women's Health Advocacy Foundation.
Society still sees sex education as dirty talk about intercourse. Actually it is about gender relations, dating, the consequences of unsafe sex and how to protect yourself," she said.
Ms Nattaya said the abortion law is too narrow and forces women to seek abortion from underground abortion clinics.
Research shows that 60-70% of women seek abortions because of economic and social pressures, she said. Some are too young, others are too old or too poor.
Many risk being fired or expelled from school when they are pregnant.
Women face great health risks, even death, from underground abortion clinics because the safe and legal option is unavailable," she said.
The cost of treating complications from unsafe abortion comes to 300 million baht a year, which could be saved if the country offered legal and safe abortion services. [...she said...]
But opponents insist the availability of legally safe and inexpensive abortions will aggravate the problem of teen pregnancy and abortion.
The Reproductive Health Bill, which allows pregnant students to continue in school during pregnancy and resume their studies after giving birth, promises to take a different approach.
Critics say allowing young mums to stay in school will encourage promiscuity among students. However, Ms Nattaya said research has shown that when teenage girls see their friends fall pregnant and encounter difficulties in their lives as a result, they become more careful with their relationships.
At a time when more than 100,000 babies each year are born to teenage mothers, "it is a serious national issue", said Wisut Boonyasopit, a health advocate from the National Health Assembly.
So is abortion when only 800,000 babies are born out of one million pregnancies a year.
While legal abortion remains too controversial, the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security has opted instead to focus on teen pregnancy prevention.
It has worked out a national strategy which includes safe sex education, information campaigns run on social media networks, monitoring high-risk groups, counselling, shelters, occupational training and giving teen mothers the right to resume school after they give birth. The strategy will be proposed to cabinet.
One aim of the plan is changing parents' attitudes towards teen pregnancies. They are encouraged to show sympathy and understanding, rather than to punish.
Holding a nine-month-old baby in her arms, Noi (not her real name), said parental understanding made all the difference when her child was born. The third-year vocational school student kept her pregnancy a secret until she was six months pregnant. When her parents finally found out, they still supported her.
But Noi has learned her lesson.
If I could turn back time, I would be more careful not to take the wrong step,"she said
(Source: Bangkok Post, Persecuting the victims, 1/11/2010, Lamphai Intathep, link)
pregnancy - when a woman carries inside of her a "fetus" growing into a human being that will eventually be "born" and enter the world as a "baby," medical: "the condition of carrying a developing embryo in the uterus" (See Wikipedia) การตั้งท้อง, การตั้งครรภ์, การมีครรภ์
abortion - ending of a pregnancy (See Wikipedia and also on religious views) การทำแท้ง, การแท้งลูก
controversial - an issue that people argue a lot about
flare - suddenly grow strong (like flames jumping up)
fundamental - the ideas or beliefs that are most important and come first (all others are supported or based on them)
values - the beliefs that influence the way of life and behaviour of a group of people ค่านิยมด้านจริยธรรม
strict - rules that must be followed and obeyed completely
uncompromising - will not change at all (to make other people happy), rigid, firm, not flexible ที่ไม่ประนีประนอม
stance - the opinion that a person has about an issue
collusion - secret activities of people working to do something illegal, complicity, conspiracy การสมรู้ร่วมคิด, การรวมหัวกันคิดอุบาย
provoke - to cause a reaction (example: the man tryed to provoke a fight by calling the other man names)
response - reaction การตอบสนอง, การโต้ตอบ
spearhead - lead
IPO - Initial Public Offering, a company's first sale of stock to the public (See Wikipedia)
horrific - shocking and upsetting, frightening
discourage - cause or make someone not want to do something
drive away - cause or make someone go away
persecuting - treating someone in an unfair and cruel way
victims - people who are killed injured or harmed in some way from an accident, natural disaster, crime, etc.
abortion - when the baby is removed from the mother before she gives birth to it (ending the pregnancy)
pregnant - having a baby developing inside the body ท้อง ตั้งครรภ์
sympathy - a natural feeling of kindness and understanding that you have for someone who is experiencing something very unpleasant ความเห็นอกเห็นใจ
censure - to express strong criticism or disapproval ตำหนิ, ติเตียน
fatal - causing someone to die ถึงตาย
near-fatal - almost causing death
charged - starting the legal process for a criminal legal case against a person
breach - failure to follow a law or rule การฝ่าฝืน
conviction - a strong opinion or belief ความเชื่อมั่น, ความเชื่ออย่างแรงกล้า
potential - possible ความเป็นไปได้
term - a period of time
jail term - a period of time that a person must live in jail as punishment for a crime
withheld - not given
lost consciousness - became unconscious, now awake and do not know what is happening around you ซึ่งหมดสติชั่วคราว
terminate - to end or stop something ทำให้สิ้นสุด
pregnancy - when a baby is growing inside a woman
allegedly - claimed but not yet proven ที่ถูกกล่าวหา
online - on the internet
taking legal action against Y - starting a legal case to punish person Y for breaking the law
underlines - shows, highlights, emphasizes (like underlining something in a book because you think it is important)
deserve - you get what you shoud get, because of what you did (THai: Som-nam-nah)
censure - extreme criticism and finding fault with some person or their actions การตำหนิ
illustrates - shows
approach - a way of doing, dealing with or thinking about something (example: approach to solving a problem) การจัดการกับปัญหา, วิธีการทำให้ถึงจุดหมาย
tackling - making an organised and determined attempt to deal with a problem การรับมือ แก้ไข จัดการกับปัญหา
teen pregnancy rate - percentage of teenagers (age 13-19) getting pregnant
rate - the level or speed at which something happens or changes, or the amount or number of times it happens or changes in a particular period อัตรา
critics - people who don't like something and who state their opinion about it นักวิจารณ์
perform - do (do some lengthy task with many steps) กระทำ, ปฏิบัติ
punitive -done as a punishment เกี่ยวกับการลงโทษ
portrayed - represented or described พรรณา
media - radio, television, newspaper, the Internet, considered as a group สื่อ
moral - about what is right and wrong, about how people should behave
rights - something you are legally or morally allowed to do or have สิทธิ์ (See Wikipedia)
women rights - the rights, entitlements and freedoms claimed for women and girls of all ages in many societies (See Wikipedia)
entitlement - the right to receive or do something การให้สิทธิ์, การมีสิทธิ์
maintain that X is true - believe X to be true
condemnation - a public statement in which someone criticises someone or something severely การประนามหยามเหยียด
ease - to make or become less severe, difficult, unpleasant, painful, etc บรรเทา, ทำให้ง่าย
Friends of Women Foundation - an NGO in Thailand with the following goals: "protection and assistance of women who face unfair dismissals and discriminatory work practices, support on organization of women workers" (See contact information)
activist - someone who takes part in activities that are intended to achieve political or social change, especially someone who is a member of an organisation นักกิจกรรม, ผู้ดำเนินการที่มีความกระตือรือร้น
represent - to act, speak or be present officially for another person or people เป็นตัวแทน
desperate (adjective) - don't know how to solve a difficult problem, will try anything to solve the problem
desperation (noun) - feeling that a situation is hopeless, that there it is impossible to solve a problem ความหมดหวัง, ความสิ้นหวัง
act of desperation - something you do to solve a difficult problem, that is extreme and strange, but there seems no other way to solve the problem
had no one to turn to - no person would help, when there was a problem
rape - the crime of forcefully having sex with someone against their wish การข่มขืน
incest - when people in the same family have sex with each other, this is usually against the law
fine - an amount of money that you have to pay because you have broken the law ค่าปรับ
harsh - strict, unkind and very strong, showing no sympathy or understanding harsh reality อย่างรุนแรง
stigma - something that embarasses you, makes you ashamed
sin - some action or activity that a religion considers bad, believing that a person will be punished if they do it บาป
sinner - a person who sins
amend - change a law, especially in order to improve it การแก้ไขกฎหมาย
fierce - very intense and very aggressive
opposition - strong disagreement with a plan or policy ความขัดแย้ง
deter - prevent, make people stop doing some activity or behaviour ขัดขวาง, ยับยั้ง, ป้องกัน
figures - statistics, numbers describing the economy
global - throughout the world ทั่วโลก
inevitably - certain to happen, cannot prevent or avoid อย่างเลี่ยงไม่ได้
provide - to give someone something that they want or need
proper - actual or real จริง (พระราชพิธีพระราชทานเพลิงพระศพจริง)
half-way home - a place where people who havea problem can stay for a time, until they can take care of themselves again (same as a "shelter")
unwed mothers - women who had a baby before they had a husband (so baby has no family and mother has to earn a living and take of child by herself)
adoption - when other people become the parents of a child, not the mother who gave birth to her and the man who made her pregnant
coordinator - someone whose job is to organise the various parts of an activity and make sure that all the people involved work well together ประสานงานกัน ทำงานร่วมกัน, ผู้ประสานงาน
dirty talk - saying bad words, talking about sex
intercourse - sexual intercourse, having sex with another person
gender - the fact of being either male or female เพศ the differences between men and women (including biological and social) (See Wikipedia)
consequences - results of some actions or events, the things that happen as a result of a decision or event
unsafe sex - having sex without using a condom to protect from AIDS
narrow - not wide; having a small distance from one side to the other, especially in comparison with the length แคบ
underground - secret, secret, illegal
clinics - places where people go to receive medical treatment
risk - the possibility that something dangerous or unpleasant might happen ความเสี่ยง
fired - have job taken away (because did something wrong)
expelled from school - when school says you cannot go to school anymore because you did something bad, kicked out of school, thrown out of school
option - a choice; something that you can choose in a particular situation ทางเลือก
option unavailable - cannot make this choice (in the situation you face)
complications - additional medical problems which make it more difficult to treat an existing illness อาการแทรกซ้อน
insist - to keep saying very firmly that something is true ยืนกราน ยืนยัน
availability - existz and people can use it
aggravate - to make a bad situation or condition worse ทำให้แย่ลง
Reproductive Health Bill - a proposed law that deals with issues of sex, pregnancy and birth control
resume - to start again after stopping for a period of time ดำเนินต่อไปใหม่, กลับมาอีกครั้ง
encourage - make people interested in and excited about doing an activity, give energy to continue doing activity, motivate, give confidence ปลุกใจ
promiscuous (adjective) - having sex with many different people ที่มีพฤติกรรมสำส่อนทางเพศ
promiscuity (noun) - the behaviour of having sex with many people
encounter - to meet; to experience or deal with something, especially a problem เผชิญกับ (ปัญหา)
national - for the whole country
issue - an important subject that people are arguing about or discussing, a problem that needs to be considered ประเด็น
advocate - someone who strongly and publicly supports someone or something ผู้การสนับสนุน (องค์อุปถัมภก)
controversial - a topic that people disagree about, fight, argue, or debate about ความขัดแย้ง, ความไม่ลงรอยกัน
focus - the main thing it is concerned with ให้ความสำคัญ
prevention - stopping people from doing things
strategy - long-term plans to achieve goals, a plan to achieve a goal over a longer period of time (longer than a "tactic")
campaigns - a long series of events staged to achieve a goal or to promote something (for example, an "anti-smoking campaign")
monitoring - watching something closely while it happens and checking for problems, regularly checking an ongoing activity or process (to check for problems or collect information) จับตาดู
counselling - when an expert gives advice, tells someone with a problem what they should do to solve the problem
shelter - a temporary place for people to live who have problems (treated in bad way by husband, lost job, pregnant without husband, etc)
training - to teach people how to do an activity or job การฝึกฝน
proposed - suggested to, presented as a possible project (but not yet chosen or decided upon)
aim - purpose; goal, the thing you hope to achieve by doing something เป้าหมาย จุดมุ่งหมาย
attitudes - opinion, viewpoint, what a person thinks about an issue ความคิดเห็น, ความเห็น, ทัศนะ, ทัศนคติ
encouraged - having more confidence or hope about something มีกำลังใจ
sympathy - understanding and being kind to people experiencing difficulties, compassion, pity ความเห็นใจ, ความสงสาร
vocational - teaching the skills necessary for particular jobs การสอนวิชาชีพ
learned her lesson - suffered when she made a bad choice, so will not do it again (learn from experience, school of hard knocks)
turn back time - go back to a time in the past (to live life again and make different better decisions to avoid problems that happened)
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