THAILAND – The upper time limit for legal abortion now 20 weeks

In February 2020, Thailand’s Constitutional Court ruled that existing laws criminalising abortion were unconstitutional and ordered them to be amended. Specifically, they said that sections 301 and 305 of the Criminal Code on abortion contradicted the Constitution, referring to articles in the Constitution that guarantee equal rights for men and women, as well as rights to liberty and life. They gave the government 360 days to change the Criminal Code, which was duly carried out.In 2021, the law was reformed and legal grounds for abortion included if a woman’s physical and/or mental health are at risk, the fetus has a high risk of a genetic disease, in cases of rape, and/or if a girl is under the age of 15. The upper time limit for abortion was only 12 weeks of pregnancy, however.On 27 October 2022, Thailand’s Public Health Ministry legalised abortion up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. [After the 20th week, however, the fetus must be carried to term.]Dr Boonyarit Sookrat, director of the Bureau of Reproductive Health at the Department of Health, said that the Public Health Ministry’s edict on abortions had been approved by the Thai Medical Council and is in line with the constitutional principle that an individual has rights and liberties over their life and body. He also pointed out that the doctors performing abortions within the new regulations will not be subject to legal action for performing a termination. Abortions will be available in 110 locations in the country. The hospitals and clinics licensed to provide abortion services are in 39 provinces across the country. Women can use their gold health cards to receive services at state hospitals.Deputy government spokesperson Traisulee Traisoranakul said the new regulations call for the consultations in the second trimester to be based on openness and kindness in dealing with pregnancy issues, to be non-judgmental of women’s behaviour and decisions, and to allow the decision whether or not to have an abortion to be made “without bias, force, and with respect for privacy.”Pro-choice advocate, Supecha Baotip, who has been campaigning for the legalisation of abortions in Thailand for more than 10 years, hailed the new abortion law as a big step forward. She described the requirement for pregnant women to seek prior expert consultation as a reasonable approach. Abortion rights advocate, Sudarat Boonprasert, said she had a termination about five years ago and that, at that time, there were no channels through which she could seek consultation about her pregnancy.SOURCES: Thai PBS World, 24 October, 2022 ; AP News, 27 September 2022 ; Time, by Sanya Mansoor, 27 October 2022 ; Reuters, by Chayut Setboonsarng, 20 February 2020 ; PHOTO: Bangkok demonstration, November 2020, by Lauren Decicca/Getty Images, in NY Times, 29 January 2021