BANGKOK: Thailand will permit abortion up to 20 weeks, the government said on Tuesday, relaxing women’s access to the previously restricted medical procedure.
Terminations remained illegal in the Southeast Asian kingdom — except in rape cases or when the mother’s life is threatened — until February 2021, when it was lifted for women up to 12 weeks pregnant.
But intense stigma remains around the procedure in the Buddhist-majority country, scarred by a 2010 case when about 2,000 illegally aborted fetuses were discovered in a temple.
Terminations of up to 20 weeks would now be permitted, a government statement said, adding that “the termination will not count as [a] crime.”
Previously, abortion was punishable by either a fine of up to 10,000 baht ($263) or six months in prison, or both.
A notice in the Royal Gazette on Monday specified that women who are more than 12 weeks and less than 20 weeks pregnant seeking a legal abortion must fulfill certain criteria.
It specified that people in this category must “consult with medical consultants so that the woman has all of the information before she decides to terminate the pregnancy.”
Despite the law change in February last year, abortion access across the kingdom remains limited and heavily stigmatized.
Deputy government spokesperson Traisuree Traisoranakul told local outlet Thai PBS that women seeking terminations must be treated with respect and in strict confidence.
She added that they must be provided with all of the medical information and should not face pressure about the decision.
The new law will come into effect 30 days after the publication of the notice.