CHIANGRAI TIMES – The current law, which criminalizes abortion, and a lack of safe termination methods will cause illegal procedures to increase, a women’s health campaigner says. The death rate associated with them will also rise.
Kamhaeng Chaturachinda, head of the Women’s Health and Reproductive Right Foundation of Thailand(WHRRF), says because the abortion law in Thailand permits termination only for women at physical risk and for those who are raped, doctors usually do not want to get involved.
“When abortion is perceived as immoral and illegal, most doctors dare not offer the service and that’s why women need to turn to illegal clinics,” said Dr Kamhaeng.
He was speaking at a meeting on Thursday between the WHRRF, the Women’s Health Advocacy Foundation, and Thai Health Promotion Foundation to discuss abortion problems in Thailand.
According to statistics from the Public Health Ministry, 300 out of 100,000 women died as a result of illegal abortions in 1999.
Dr Kamhaeng said considering the progress in medical technology in Thailand, the death toll caused by abortion should not be this high.
He urged the National Health Security Office (NHSO), whose mission is to provide a health security system that is equitable and can ensure public confidence, to make sure that safe abortion techniques are available in hospitals throughout the country.
Dr Kamhaeng said while the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that hospitals worldwide use a method called Manual Vacuum Aspiration (MVA) for abortions, most hospitals in Thailand still stick to the more painful and less safe Dilation and Curettage (D&C) method.
The D&C procedure, in which a metal curette is used to scrape against the uterus, can cause heavy internal bleeding and perforate the uterus, which can then prove fatal.
“MVA has been proven to be much safer and more efficient. The NHSO should encourage all hospitals in Thailand to replace D&C with MVAs,” Dr Kamhaeng said.
The WHO and the Federation International of Obstetricians and Gynecologists believe the best abortion method is actually taking two medicines; mifepristone and misoprostol.
Dr Kamhaeng said these two medicines have been used in many countries, including neighboring Malaysia and Cambodia, for more than 20 years.
In Thailand, however, mifepristone is permitted for research purposes only and misoprostol can only be prescribed by doctors in hospitals.
Dr Kamhaeng said that many women seeking an abortion have to buy these medicines on the black market at a price of 5,000 baht per tablet while the actual price is less than 20 baht.
Apart from the extortionate price, they also have to worry about the quality of the medicine.
Somsak Lolekha, former president of the Medical Council of Thailand, who was also present at the meeting, agreed the drugs should be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
“The law and perceptions in Thailand, which forbid abortion, makes its cost extremely high and makes a safe abortion unobtainable for most women,” Dr Somsak said. – Writer: Pannee Wongthienthong
THE THAI CRIMINAL CODE ON ABORTION
Section 301: Any woman who causes an abortion herself or allows any other person to procure an abortion for her, shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding three years or fined not more than 6,000 baht, or both.
Section 302: Whoever procures an abortion for a woman with her consent, shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding five years or a fine not exceeding 10,000 baht, or both.
Section 303: Whoever procures an abortion for a woman without her consent shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding seven years or fined not more than 20,000 baht, or both. If such act causes other grievous bodily harm to the woman, the offender shall be punished with imprisonment of one to 10 years and fined 2,000 to 20,000 baht. If such act causes the death of the woman, the offender shall be punished with imprisonment of five to 20 years and fined 10,000 to 40,000 baht.
Section 304: Whoever only attempts to commit the offenses in Section 301 or Section 302 shall not be punished.
Section 305: If the offenses in Section 301 and 302 are performed by a medical doctor and are necessary for the mental or physical health of the woman or if the woman became pregnant due to the breaking of Section 276, 277, 282, 283 or 284 of the Criminal Code [covering sexual assaults and rape], the person will not be held accountable.
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