Safe Abortion Movement
As a woman surrounded by several female friends, abortion is never an issue that deems too irrelevant. I’m fully aware of the importance of the abortion-rights movement and in favor of legal, safe, and accessible abortion for all women. But what about society at large? How far have we become? Have we made any progress at all over the last few years?
EQ get in touch with นิศารัตน์ “Tukta” จงวิศาล, a representative from Safe Abortion Thailand group, to talk about abortion and the movement itself. As someone who had an abortion herself, Tukta tells us that, “Things could be a lot better. A lot of changes can still be made in many aspects.”
Get to Know Tam Tang Group
Tam Tang Group may not ring a bell, but you may have seen or heard about Safe Abortion Thailand Facebook group before on your social media feed. “The group is founded by Chompoo Supicha, a diversity, equality and inclusion activist. Following the news of thousands of embryos being found in a temple in 2010, women who had an abortion seemed to experience more stigma more than ever before. I started writing a blog about my own experience of having an abortion and set up an email consultation system before switching to a phone and then online. We now have more than 10 people on our team and, apart from providing consultation, we also do campaign work, organize events, rallies, and spreading accurate information about safe abortion on social media and on our podcast. Everything we do is to push for legal abortion. We want to ensure the well-being of women who consider an abortion or have had one.”
Fewer cases, more challenging issues
“Since the abortion bill passed, we’ve seen a decrease in the number of women who seek advice and consultation. Websites like RSA Thai (Referral System for Safe Abortion) have published useful information such as clinics and other resources that a woman may need when considering an abortion as an option. It’s gotten a lot easier for those who have access to the internet. The same thing cannot be said for the less unfortunate, though. If you’re broke and stuck in a toxic relationship, then things can get a little tricky. While it’s true that we’ve seen fewer cases, the problems do get more complicated. We try our best to help those who need assistance and guidance the most.”
More improvements are still needed
“I must admit that the law has gotten better. You can have an abortion legally and unconditionally if your pregnancy is still under 12 weeks. More than that and you risk a fine of 10,000 baht or 6-month imprisonment or both. If you’ve been raped, however, you have to get the doctor’s approval and psychological assessment first. I think change could still be made in that regard.”
“I don’t feel like this law was written with women in mind because if that were the case, there would be no punishment whatsoever. Women should have the right to do whatever they want to their own body and the law should reflect that. We’re planning to create a petition to have Section 305 rectified and right now we’re running a campaign asking the Department of Health to disclose a list of safe abortion services to the public. There’s never been any government agency or official that provides information on this matter except for Dr. Worachat from Phimai Hospital. Not having access to that kind of information would turn abortion from an urgent matter to an emergency.”
Some people argue that if abortion is fully legalized, it could potentially lead to promiscuity. What do you think about that?
“Firstly, we live in a patriarchal society so unwanted pregnancies are often blamed on women instead of men. You have to break away from this mindset because women and men deserve sexual pleasure in equal measures. Secondly, it has to do with the mindset which regards motherhood as some sort of punishment. Finally, everybody’s life circumstances are different. How can you be sure that women didn’t do their best to protect themselves? They might be in a domineering relationship or they might not have access to birth control. You should never judge people you don’t know all that well.”
“There’s this one case involving a 19-year-old woman. She wanted to have a birth control implant, but she was refused by the hospital because she’s never had children before. She was advised to get a shot every three months instead which caused her body to react adversely. After a year or so, she couldn’t handle it anymore so she switched back to birth control pills. She ended up getting pregnant not too long after. The whole thing is just so sad. She tried to protect herself but she didn’t get the support she needed.”
Society needs to adjust its mindset
“There’s a stigma around women who had abortions in our society. Most people look at it as committing “a bad deed,’ but at the end of the day, you have no right to dictate what women should or shouldn’t do. You see it often in the media, news, and soap opera. Families should also provide a safe space for women in this situation. Don’t see them as a disappointment, but try to support them so that they don’t feel alone.”
The important of sex education
“Sex education in Thailand sucks so bad. Instead of teaching traditional gender roles like women should be in the kitchen and men should be the breadwinner, they should teach kids consent and how to respect other people’s rights.”
“Democracy and physical rights like abortion are inseparable. If society is truly democratic, it wouldn’t have turned out the way it is today. The foundation of democracy is for everybody to be seen and heard equally. In a dictatorial society, however, our rights get violated. Politics and abortion therefore have to move forward together, that’s why we’re joining all these rallies to call for true democracy. We’re choosing sides.”
Abortion is not a sin
“If you decide to keep the baby just because of society, then you have to ask yourself this question: do you think society actually cares about you? Ultimately, it’s you who have to endure the pain of giving birth and raising the baby. You must fight back and stick to your personal needs. You’re not in the wrong to want an abortion, society is simply not open minded enough for you to have that option. Also, once you’re in the process of getting an abortion, everything is confidential so you don’t have to worry about that.”
Things to keep in mind before an abortion
If you decide to terminate your pregnancy, the first thing to do is to check if you have any underlying disease. If so, you must consult a doctor first. The cost of an abortion generally starts from 3,000 baht.
The fight to abolish Section 301 and change people’s mindsets may take some time. What is the driving force behind the group that keeps them determined to make abortion truly a human right?
“The gratitude from those we were able to help and support keeps us inspired. Seeing them leading better lives makes us want to keep doing it for another 10 years. We also appreciate that there are people who understand what we’re trying to achieve. We’re glad that we are not alone in this fight.”