Chapter 6: Abortion law in Thailand: a big step forward?
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Thailand has dramatically shifted its position on abortion. To outsiders, Thailand’s changes seem to be a stunning success for supporters of abortion rights. The law, which had been strict by international standards, now allows for access to abortion even late in pregnancy and explicitly protects self-managed abortion early in pregnancy. In practice, however, the law creates a loophole that is already limiting access. For an abortion to be legal, except for an abortion committed by the woman herself in the first 12 weeks, it must be performed in compliance with the Medical Council Regulations, a national body charged with regulating the medical profession. The Regulations can be much easier changed than a law issued by Parliament. By letting a professional but non-democratic institution fill in crucial details of the law on abortion, Thailand has left the right to abort hanging by a dangerously thin thread. This chapter will first discuss the history of Thai abortion laws dating back over two centuries ago. Next, it will look into what happened on the ground before the law was repealed and examine the Constitutional Court Judgment, establishing that it was anything but inevitable that a conservative country like Thailand would introduce a progressive policy on abortion. The third part will discuss the scope and application of the new law before offering suggestions as to how Parliament can make the law more effective in achieving safe abortion and respecting women’s rights.

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