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Thailand’s New Abortion Law Defends Competition From Both Buddhists and Christians
Thailand’s New Abortion Law now allows abortions up to 20 weeks, up from 12 weeks. The Buddhist-majority country outlawed abortions until February 2020.
Statement About Thailand’s New Abortion Law
Thailand’s Constitutional Court declared unlawful the criminal code legislation that imposed fines and jail sentences for persons who conduct or undergo an illegal abortion. Thai parliament enacted 12-week abortion law last year.
Theravada Buddhists (93% of the population) think abortion is a sin that breaches the first Buddhist precept against murdering any living thing.
Shame in Thai culture over unwed mothers and underage pregnancies, together with economic pressures, have pushed women to seek abortions illegally or by claiming mental health exemptions. This month’s change in abortion rules shifts focuses from the unborn infant to the mother.
Some Thai Christians and Buddhists oppose the new abortion law, citing life’s sanctity. They provide s*x education and advocate for more government help for single moms to reduce abortions. Several Christian ministries counsel unwanted pregnancies and abortions.
Thai society lacks a cohesive movement since abortion is taboo. Katie Miller, head of a pregnancy clinic in northern Thailand, said, “We’re quietly equipping and empowering women to choose life.”
Shame and the Law in Contemporary Siam
Before the verdict, abortions were outlawed save in circumstances of rape, incest, underage pregnancy, fetal disability, or mother damage. Any woman who has an unlawful abortion might be imprisoned for three years, and anybody who performs one could serve five.
In practice, Thai doctors used a broad definition of maternal damage, including mental health impairment, according to a 2014 WHO report. In public hospitals, 30,000 abortions are performed annually, according to the report.
Most abortions in Thailand are done in private clinics or self-administered. WHO estimates 300,000 to 400,000 abortions annually.
Abortion is against the first of the five Buddhist precepts, yet Thai culture has an honor-shame attitude, sources say. Parents often encourage young girls to get abortions to save face in the community.
Khari Sirinumboontavee, 51, a hospital social worker in Udon Thani, doesn’t want abortions. If a woman is pregnant and not ready, she should have a safe option.
She fears for the illegal abortion-seeking mother’s life. Some use pharmacy-bought abortion pills. Some visit illicit clinics. WHO estimates abortions cause 10% of maternal mortality.
Sirinumboontavee is also worried about unprepared women who leave, neglect or abuse their children. She fears it will cause further issues. “They’re alive but dying. The issue becomes societal.”
Religions That Support Life, Such as Buddhism and Christianity
Many Buddhists are conservative. Chiang Mai child rights lecturer Phongsiri Sirisuwanjit, 61, deemed the law “inappropriate” “Abortion and infant slaughter are sins in Buddhism,” she stated. Many consider abortion, suicide, murder, death punishment, and euthanasia to be life-taking. Bad karma from these behaviors will affect their next existence, they believe.
Well-known monk Phra Ratchadhamanithet labeled women who have abortions “spoiled” because they desired sex but are “not ready to take care of the kid.” Bhikkhuni Dhammananda, a female monk, says abortion is murder, which violates Buddhism, and a woman who has one sin invokes terrible karma. She believes a woman may choose but must bear the consequences.
Buddhist monk Phra Shine Waradhammo supports LGBT rights and joined 20 pro-choice campaigners in 2021 to advocate for abortion access. According to him, fellow Buddhists are outraged.
In a letter to the Thai parliament, the Network Against Free Abortion cited the Buddhist belief in the sacredness of life. It said the abortion ban would contravene medical professionals’ views and the unborn baby’s right to life.
Christians, who make up about 1% of the Thai population, and Buddhists work together here. Creation Chiang Mai Church pastors Chukiat Chaiboonsri, 48, and Paponsun Eakkapun, 24, said Christians must oppose the verdict.
“Thai Christians believe God is love, and man has no right to harm anyone’s life or breath since God gives life and breath to man,” the pastors told CT.
Genesis 2:7 and Exodus 21:22–25 were cited to support God’s great value for the unborn. They’ve talked to their church about the law and said congregations around the country must promote life.
Chaiboonsri and Eakkapun feel Thai Christians must intervene. Youth groups are used by Creation Chiang Mai. Their church’s youth club promotes biblical ideals, s*x and purity, and God’s will. Pastors encourage Christian parents and the church to have unpleasant dialogues about s*x and abortion. Read more: Mom Wanted for Murder After 5-year-old Discovered Dead in Suitcase
Chaiboonsri and Eakkapun argued that every church should look to the next generation since they will become church leaders.
Preventative Medicine and the Christian Love
Sirisuwanjit, of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, believes early schooling can reduce abortions. She teaches and trains youngsters and teachers at Chiang Mai schools on teen issues, including safe s*x to prevent unplanned pregnancies.
Her program encourages children to talk to student leaders about bullying, suicide ideation, or s*xual pressure. Pupils are more comfortable approaching other students, thus initiatives like these help address issues sooner. Teachers hear more significant concerns.
Sirisuwanjit: “We need a more proactive anti-abortion effort.” “Preventing unplanned and adolescent births is the best method to achieve this.”
She says the Ministry of Public Health and Human Security and the Department of Mental Health should provide childcare and help for undesired pregnancies.
Chalermkwan Chutima, 51, director of Upstream Family and Community Learning Center, agrees. Her nonprofit provides materials and training to parents and teachers to address problems “upstream”
Former International Justice Mission program coordinator Chutima has written extensively on abortion in Thailand from a Thai Christian’s perspective. She says s*x, pregnancy, and abortion are interwoven with domestic abuse, a patriarchal society, and a lack of support for women. In teen pregnancies, society blames only the woman, not the father or his family. The mother, filled with humiliation, considers abortion. Read more; Wisconsin man guilty of murdering 6 at Christmas parade with SUV
“Women have the choice to abort a pregnancy, but decisions are often molded by patriarchal ideology,” she added.
Chutima feels Thais—including Christians—need to solve the source of the problem and the Thai government should help, protect, and care for these moms.
Upstream helps families discuss s*x with their children to prevent pregnancy. Through seminars, she aims to change community perceptions of women. Temples, churches, and schools should help pregnant women and their families.
Chutima thinks that by helping these ladies “repair their heart and soul,” Christians may show non-Christians Christ’s love. Christians can be pro-life before and after birth. Read more: Dr. Oz Believes That Women’s Abortion Decisions Should Involve “Local Political Leaders”
People who have had abortions won’t believe Christians are stigmatizing and punishing them with God’s law, she added.
Walking With Women
Samaritan’s Creations wants to help. The Christian group helps women in Bangkok’s red-light district via discipleship, job training, education, and counseling.
Kay Killar thinks all s*x industry women have had an abortion. Even when abortion was illegal, bartenders knew where to go, said Thai-born Killar. She and other group members counsel unwanted pregnancies and abortions.
She views teen pregnancy as a primary reason for abortions and says Thais should address it rather than “teen s*xual activities.” Lack of parenting, especially owing to poverty, is difficult to remedy.
The ELM Team also walks with women considering abortion. The pregnancy center’s foreign and local professionals meet with women in crisis pregnancies to explain fetal growth and urge ultrasounds. Miller, ELM Team director, said hearing the baby’s heartbeat helps a Buddhist lady know she has life. Read more: Lee Zeldin and Kathy Hochul Fight the Buffalo Bills, Trump, and Crime
The woman has two mentors during her pregnancy and up to two years after birth. The Christian ministry prepares Thai churches to spread the gospel and teach fetal development in local schools and one-on-one with moms. Miller expects that as the pro-life message grows, more people will visit their facilities in Chiang Mai, Bangkok, and Hat Yai.
Miller hopes the verdict would encourage more women to volunteer. “We must educate about life in the womb, and God will help believers speak up for these infants’ rights.”
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