Covid-19 hastening end to unwanted pregnancies
People thrown out of work by social distancing can no longer make ends meet, forcing some tough decisions
Koi, a 39- year-old vendor, decided to terminate her pregnancy after her family's earnings plummeted due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
"The pregnancy was unplanned. I was six weeks in. This new reality was disorienting. I know it isn't a good way and many people may think what I'm about to do is morally-wrong, but I have no choice and it's hard to accept,'' said Koi, who has two children, aged 14 and 10.
Koi and her husband opened a food shop at flea market in downtown Khon Kaen. But shortly after the government imposed a curfew barring people from going out between 10pm-4am, customers started staying away. Their income dropped by 50-70%, her savings plummeted, while their debt soared.
She said she understands the situation, as Covid-19 is wrecking havoc on economies worldwide and many are affected by the disease. But she said it is hard for her struggling family to survive through this period.
Koi and her 40-year-old husband were earning around 30,000 baht a month by selling food, but now they make less than 10,000 baht a month -- not enough to raise their family.
"When I found out I was pregnant again I was shocked, because I don't know how I can afford a third child. We have extremely limited funds and live in a small house on which I am paying 2,000-baht monthly instalments,'' she said.
While the pregnancy was not planned, she had discussed the issue with her husband, who urged her to consider carefully.
"We agreed on the need to make extra money, but that may be difficult at the moment as no one knows when we will return to ordinary life. The Covid-19 pandemic has really destroyed our livelihoods,'' she said.
And when schools reopen, she would need more money to spend on her children's school uniforms, fees and other educational costs. And until now, she still can't think of a way to raise the money to cover her children's educational expenses.
After discussing the unplanned pregnancy with her husband, Koi spent many days contemplating. She thought hard about what she should do with her third pregnancy, before her friend took her to a family planning clinic in Khon Kaen run by the Planned Parenthood Association of Thailand (PPAT) under the Patronage of HRH the Princess Mother.
The PPAT is a pioneer in family planning in Thailand. First registered in 1970, it will mark its 50th anniversary tomorrow.
Koi said she wasn't reluctant to seek help when she learned the clinic has doctors who can provide her with advice to prevent unplanned pregnancies.
"I needed someone who could advise me and listen to my problems. I came to the right place, as the doctor here paid attention to my case. She talked openly about the consequences of unintended pregnancy but let me make my own decision.
"She did not pressure me and explained everything to me, especially things which were pertinent to my family's financial status and the risk of conceiving at 39-40 years old.
"So, I thought it over and decided to end my pregnancy. I want my child to grow up with good health and access to high-quality education. I don't want him or her to be a burden on society, if he or she is not properly nourished,'' she added.
Koi says she and the doctor will meet to talk again until she is confident she really does want to terminate her pregnancy. However, she insisted that she is unlikely to change her mind.
Somchai Kaemthong, director of PPAT's information and public relations department, said PPAT works under the medical guidelines and practices of the Medical Council, saying women can have an abortion if they are no more than 12 weeks pregnant and they must give their consent before.
If women under 20 want to end their unwanted pregnancy, their parents must give their consent, Mr Somchai said.
He said each family planning clinic under PPAT provide counselling to about 7-8 women with unplanned pregnancies a day, but not all women opt to end their pregnancy.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), unintended pregnancies remain an important public health issue. Globally, 74 million women in low and middle-income countries have unintended pregnancies annually. This leads to 25 million unsafe abortions and 47,000 maternal deaths every year.
Surasak Thaneepanichsakul, chairman of PPAT, said the counselling process at family planning clinics under the PPAT observe international standards regarding sexual and reproductive health.
PPAT, a non-governmental organisation in sexual and reproductive health, is a member of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).
Dr Surasak said it is a shame PPAT is marking its 50th anniversary as Covid-19 is laying waste to people's lives across the world.
He has assigned PPAT's volunteers at 10 clinics nationwide to work closely with health volunteers of the Public Health Ministry in helping educate people in how to protect themselves against the new coronavirus disease.
One of the key messages PPAT wants to convey is that people should avoid having sex at this time as it could help spread the disease.
Dr Surasak said PPAT is also hoping to for greater access to the targeted population, particularly disadvantaged groups, hilltribe people and people living in border areas. It wants to provide them with sexual and reproductive health information so they can take good care of themselves.