The House of Representatives passed an amendment to the Criminal Code which effectively legalises early-stage abortions in the country.
The draft amendment passed its third and final reading yesterday, with 276 MPs voting in support of the bill. Eight voted against the amendment, while 54 others abstained.
Originally, two bills -- one initiated by the cabinet and the other by the Move Forward Party (MFP) -- were proposed, but the House decided to admit the cabinet's draft for further scrutiny.
While the cabinet-sponsored bill affected four sections of the Criminal Code to allow early-stage abortions, the House's legislative scrutiny panel focused on amendments to sections 3 and 4 of the code.
The panel approved the amendment to Section 3, which makes it illegal for a woman who is more than 12 weeks pregnant to have an abortion. Previously, abortion was illegal regardless of the age of the foetus.
The panel also decided to keep the cabinet's proposal to punish violators with a jail term of up to six months, a maximum fine of 10,000 baht or both.
Earlier, the scrutiny panel had earlier pushed to slash the prison sentence by half.
The panel also approved amendments to Section 4 of the code, which makes an abortion legal if it is carried out by a qualified medical practitioner, in line with criteria set out by the Medical Council of Thailand (MCT).
According to MCT's guidelines, a pregnancy can be terminated if it poses a threat to the mother's physical and/or emotional health; if the foetus is known to have abnormalities; and/or if the pregnancy is the result of a sexual assault.