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  • Writer's pictureManushya Foundation

International Safe Abortion Day: We want Safe Abortion for all NOW!

📅On September 28th, we commemorate International Safe Abortion Day, a day that sheds light on the critical importance of ensuring safe and legal access to abortion services for all individuals. This day is a stark reminder that reproductive justice is intrinsically tied to human rights, and we must approach it from an intersectional feminist perspective. Let us delve into the significance of International Safe Abortion Day, by first introducing the complex web of factors that affect access to safe abortion in Thailand and offering an intersectional answer to the question: How can we ensure safe abortion access for ALL?

🇹🇭 Thailand's Strides Towards Reproductive Health

As of October 2022, Thailand legalized abortions up to the 20th week of pregnancy, building upon amendments introduced in 2021, which initially permitted terminations within the first 12 weeks. This legal shift followed a significant constitutional court decision in 2020, declaring section 301, which previously deemed abortion illegal, as unconstitutional. However, it's crucial to clarify that despite these legal reforms, abortion remains a criminal offense when performed beyond the 20-week mark, as specified in the penal code.

These changes fall short of providing universal access to safe abortion services, as envisioned by some. According to the pro-choice networks led by Tamtang Group, fewer than 100 public health facilities out of the approximately 1,300 in Thailand offer abortion services. A notable gap is apparent in Bangkok, where there is a lack of public facilities for abortion, forcing women to either travel considerable distances or seek services at private hospitals, which are often less accessible and predominantly unaffordable.

🚩 Stigmatization and persisting threats

While these legal reforms are essential, it is crucial to acknowledge that without full decriminalization, doctors remain reluctant to perform abortions, forcing women to resort to unsafe abortion to terminate unwanted pregnancies. This puts their lives at risk, highlighting the urgent need for broader legal changes.

Annually in Thailand, approximately 300,000 women seek abortions, and a significant number of them turn to clandestine methods due to difficulties in obtaining the procedure through lawful avenues. Alarmingly, approximately 30,000 of these cases result in injury or even death to women, as reported by the Reproductive Health Service Association (RSA).

While women seeking abortion continue to be turned away by medical professionals, harmful labels and judgments still deter both individuals from seeking safe healthcare services, fearing public shame and condemnation. Stigmatization and a lack of accurate information still pose significant obstacles to safe abortion access in Thailand. Choices Network Thailand NGO coordinator, Kritaya Archavanitkul, notes that while there are private hospitals offering these services, they often prefer to remain discreet, fearing the label of “abortion hospitals”. This reluctance underscores the enduring societal stigma surrounding abortions in Thailand and the need for comprehensive reform.

Understanding Intersectional Feminism and Reproductive Rights

An intersectional feminist perspective emphasizes that reproductive rights are not one-size-fits-all; they are deeply intertwined with various aspects of identity, including race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and more. It acknowledges that individuals experience unique challenges and barriers when seeking reproductive healthcare, making it imperative to address these multifaceted issues.

1. 🚻 Beyond the Binary: Gender Equality and Bodily Autonomy

Gender equality is at the core of reproductive justice. The right to make decisions about one's body, including the choice to have an abortion, is a fundamental aspect of bodily autonomy. Intersectional feminism reminds us that women and individuals of marginalized genders often face more significant obstacles when trying to access safe abortion services. Simultaneously, their leadership in the safe abortion movement is not just relevant; but essential. This calls for ensuring their equal access to resources, platforms and opportunities to engage in the dialogue!

2. 🌏Geographic and Racial Disparities

Access to safe abortion is not the same for everyone. Marginalized communities, particularly ethnic minorities and Indigenous individuals, often encounter systemic racism within the healthcare system. In Thailand, the scarcity of centers that perform abortion procedures often will result in women from rural areas or marginalized communities without alternatives altogether. This results in disproportionately limited access to reproductive healthcare options. Recognizing these racial disparities is crucial in the fight for reproductive justice.

3. 💰Economic Barriers

Abortion access is not only a matter of legality but also affordability. Economic disparities affect a person's ability to access safe abortion care. Many individuals are forced to navigate financial barriers, which can lead to unsafe and unregulated procedures. According to a pro-choice network led by Tamtang, more than 60% of women seeking abortions in Thailand cannot afford the costs. Intersectional feminism highlights the importance of dismantling economic barriers to ensure equal access to abortion services.

4. 🏳️‍🌈LGBTQI+ Inclusivity

LGBTQI+ individuals also face unique challenges when it comes to reproductive healthcare. The healthcare system must be inclusive and sensitive to the diverse needs of this community. Intersectional feminism emphasizes the importance of creating safe spaces for LGBTQI+ individuals seeking abortion care.

5. 🛂Immigration Status

Immigrants and undocumented individuals often confront additional barriers when seeking reproductive healthcare. Fear of deportation or discrimination can deter them from accessing safe abortion services, provided that they get support and information on how to access these services in the first place. An intersectional feminist approach calls for the protection of these vulnerable populations.

International Safe Abortion Day serves as a reminder that safe abortion is not a privilege but a human right. To achieve reproductive justice, we must adopt an intersectional feminist perspective that recognizes the complex layers of inequality that impact access to safe abortion services. We must advocate for comprehensive healthcare, economic equality, and inclusivity for all individuals, regardless of their race, gender, economic status, sexual orientation, or immigration status.

Together, we can work towards a world where every person has the autonomy and support they need to make choices about their own bodies!

Our Call to Action:

We firmly demand that the Thai government fully decriminalizes abortion and removes it from the criminal code once and for all!

We call upon all public hospitals to provide safe abortions and democratize access to information about abortion services, rather than let women resort to unsafe abortions, risking their lives and unable to exercise their legal right!

We urge all governments to ensure reproductive care is accessible to all, irrespective of gender identity, ethnic background, or marginalized status. Safe and legal abortion is not just a healthcare necessity; it is a human right that must be upheld and protected for everyone.

#WeAreManushyan ♾ Equal Human Beings

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