No one wants to talk about abortion

No one wants to talk about abortion

When a model told the media she just had an abortion out of pressure from her actor/singer ex-boyfriend _ a decision she now deeply regrets _ what did you think would ensue?

Public sympathy for her?

An opportunity to discuss abortion problems? The necessity to provide women with unplanned pregnancy with counselling and well-informed choices? Or the need to make men responsible too for the consequences of their unprotected sex?

If that is what you had in mind, then you have totally underestimated Thai society's systematic violence against women. The police now want to send the woman to jail. Not only that, the police also threaten to punish her ex-boyfriend and his mother who allegedly encouraged the abortion move.

The abortion confession of model Pilawan "Muay" Areerob has made headlines for nearly a week now. Readers are fed with details of how Ms Pilawan was reluctant to the abortion idea, how it was forced upon her by her ex-boyfriend Howard Wang, where she got an abortion and how she was subsequently traumatised. Ms Pilaiwan might just want to rescue her name. The sexual double standards only condemn women, never men, in unplanned pregnancies. But then entered the police to get a piece of media publicity.

Abortion is illegal here unless when the pregnancy endangers the mother's health or results from rape and incest. Since Ms Pilaiwan's case does not fit the bill, she must face a maximum three-year imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of 6,000 baht, the police declared.

On Tuesday, the police staged a crackdown on the clinic run by the Population and Community Development Association with an army of media in tow

The police insisted any clinics offering "illegal" abortion must be shut down and the abortion provider must get the penalty of up to five years in jail and/or a fine up to 10,000 baht.

In the news, Ms Pilaiwan, her ex-boyfriend, and the pregnancy termination clinic are painted as the law breakers, the baddies. The hero is the police because they are protecting the law. How ridiculous can things go?

We are talking here about the obsolete law that is killing more than one thousand women every year. They die because the law prevents women from getting safe medical services to end unplanned pregnancy. They are then forced to turn to quacks or dangerous abortion-inducing drugs, which often results in incomplete abortion and deadly complications. Every attempt to amend this draconian abortion law has been aborted because society believes maintaining the surface of morality is worth more than saving women's lives.

The standard thinking is that abortion is sinful. Allowing it will hurt our self image as a virtuous, religious society while inviting more moral decadence. If you are pregnant out of wedlock, then you are bad and deserve social ostracism. If you die from abortion complications, then so be it. If these values and practices are not violence against women, what is? Ms Pilaiwan is actually the lucky one. Her early pregnancy ended safely. According to the Public Health Ministry, 300,000 women seek hospital care each year from abortion complications. Thailand's death rate from abortion is 300:100,000. It is among the highest in the world. Yet no one cares.

That's not all. These 300,000 women who seek medical help are routinely subjected to a medically primitive treatment "to give them a lesson."

It does not matter if the complications come from miscarriage or incomplete abortion. The patients' wombs are scraped and scooped, often without anaesthetics.

Why sticking to this harsh treatment when the rest of the medical world is already using a safer and less painful method with quick suction of the womb or pills to remove the uterine contents from miscarriage and incomplete abortion?

If this is not violence against women, what is?

We refuse to help women with unplanned pregnancy. We make them suffer. We let them die. No, I cannot consider the society that is treating women this way virtuous. Can you?

Sanitsuda Ekachai is Assistant Editor, Bangkok Post.

Sanitsuda Ekachai

Former editorial pages editor

Sanitsuda Ekachai is a former editorial pages editor, Bangkok Post. She writes on social issues, gender, and Thai Buddhism.

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