THAILAND – “I would like to speak out as a woman and as a member of Parliament”

PHOTO: Police at a rally in front of Government House, 1 May, demanding laws to improve access to safe abortion services. 

by MD Kalyapat Rachitroj

“Safe abortion is a basic healthcare service and an important enabling factor for Thailand to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Under Target 3.1 of Goal 3 (ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages), a two-thirds reduction in maternal mortality — in which unsafe abortion is a leading cause – is called for by 2030. And this is directly under the mandate of the Ministry of Public Health to deliver.

“While Thailand has legalised abortion up to the 20th week of pregnancy in 2021, women still face an information deficit, social stigma, and lack of access to safe abortion services. In recognition of International Safe Abortion Day last week, I would like to speak out as a woman and as a member of parliament.

“From a consultation with TamTang, a safe abortion advocacy group, I was advised that most people do not know that the National Health Security Office has provided an abortion subsidy for every Thai citizen since 2016, or that abortion is now legal. Those who are informed reportedly encounter acute stigmatisation, shaming and discrimination for being pregnant, often alluding to promiscuity. This often occurs in public health facilities, which at times leads to women being rejected from receiving abortion services or being transferred to facilities that are willing to provide the services…

“Second, there is an inadequacy of public health institutions that provide safe abortion services…. In some provinces, most are private clinics or hospitals… In Bangkok, there are no [public] health facilities that provide abortion services. None…. Yet Bangkok has the highest demand in the country…The more time women have to spend on finding information or healthcare facilities to receive the services, the more advanced the stage of their pregnancy…

“The current administration could do the following to alleviate the situation: institutionalise safe abortion services in the country’s public health system… allowing nurses and general practitioners to step in and lessen the workload…; promote safe abortion through the use of telemedicine up to the 12th week of pregnancy…

“Ensuring women’s access to safe and legal abortion will not merely improve their reproductive health. It is also an enhancement of gender equality — women’s autonomy and capacity to make independent and informed decisions over their sexuality and reproduction.”

MD Kalyapat Rachitroj is a member of Parliament of the Move Forward Party (MFP).

SOURCE: Bangkok Post, by Kalyapat Rachitroj. 6 October 2023 + PHOTO by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul