NHRC hails elective abortion law

NHRC hails elective abortion law

Health providers not ready to meet needs

Rights activists from the Women Workers Unity Group gather near Government House on Feb 1, 2021 to demand better support for single mothers and those with children during the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo: Arnun Chonmahatrakool)
Rights activists from the Women Workers Unity Group gather near Government House on Feb 1, 2021 to demand better support for single mothers and those with children during the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo: Arnun Chonmahatrakool)

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has welcomed a legal amendment that allows for the elective termination of pregnancies between 12 and 20 weeks to ensure safe and legal abortions, a basic right for women urged by at least two international pacts Thailand has signed.

Safe legal abortions are approved by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), said Pornprapai Ganjanarintr, chairwoman of the NHRC.

She was speaking at a seminar on this topic co-organised by the NHRC and the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth) on Wednesday to mark International Safe Abortion Day.

"Thailand in February last year amended Section 301 of the Criminal Code to allow for elective abortions of up to 20 weeks, compared to just 12 weeks previously, while at the same time amending Section 305 of the same code to allow medical practitioners to legally perform such elective abortions," she said.

"Despite the legal change, the country's healthcare system apparently wasn't really ready to support elective abortions," Ms Pornprapai added.

In the first six months of 2022 the NHRC has found that most pregnant women who intended to have their pregnancy terminated still lacked information as to where they could seek a safe legal abortion service, she said.

The NHRC, therefore, recommended the government pass the amendment to put in place a mechanism ensuring strong public understanding of the law governing such abortions.

The Royal Gazette published an amendment to Section 305(5) of the Criminal Code on Monday stating that women who are pregnant for 12 to 20 weeks have the right to seek an elective abortion if supervised by a certified medical practitioner, said Chatchai Wangwon, a director at ThaiHealth.

"The problem, however, is that as of August, Thailand only has 110 healthcare units capable of providing an abortion service, and most of them are only familiar with performing abortions on women who are less than 12 weeks pregnant," Mr Chatchai said.

From last September to this August, a total of 30,766 calls have been made to the 1663 hotline seeking counsel on unwanted pregnancies and termination, he said. Of those, 180 were callers who said their requests for an elective abortion service were rejected.


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