THAILAND – Abortion law reform bill proposed by the cabinet

In spite of the national political crisis, the Thai cabinet has approved a law reform bill that will allow women with pregnancies of not more than 12 weeks to have an abortion without restrictions on grounds if approved by the House of Representatives early next year. The bill will allow women to have an abortion if they “insist on terminating their pregnancy”. The 12-week period is said to be based on the opinions of the Medical Council of Thailand and the Royal Thai College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which they view as the safest period with fewest risks, according to deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhnadirek.

The current law allows abortion in the event of medical conditions or risks to the woman’s life, or when the pregnancy I the result of rape, deception or coercion. To these, an additional exception has been added – when there is a high risk of serious fetal impairment.

Penalties would be reduced for women having an abortion when the pregnancy is beyond 12 weeks. Under the amended Section 301, any woman who has self-induced an abortion or allowed someone else to do it for her shall be punished with not more than six months in prison and/or a fine of not more than 10,000 baht. The current penalty is a three-year jail term and/or a fine of not more than 60,000 baht.

The bill also decriminalises doctors who provide an abortion if the conditions specified are met.

The reason for the reform of the law was that the Constitutional Court had ruled in February 2020 that two sections of the current law were unconstitutional because they violated Section 28 of the charter, which endorses the right to life and body. The Court said the law had to be revised within 360 days of its ruling or else the entire abortion law would fall. Hence, the proposed law reform law must be passed before 12 February 2021.

SOURCES: Bangkok Post, 17 November 2020 ; PHOTO: Chiang Rai Times, 18 November 2020