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Some women see abortion as only hope.

Abortion has been illegal under Thailand's criminal code since January 1957. Not until 22 years later did the women's rights movements seek to amend the law in a bid to give women the choice to terminate pregnancies.

But to date, these attempts have been futile and abortion remains illegal and a thorny issue among conservatives and liberals.

Women with unwanted pregnancies must seek illegal abortion services or try termination methods that are even more risky to their health.

"When I was a schoolgirl, I went to a drugstore to get a drug for my friend who had become pregnant. You know, 10 years later I was again sent to a drugstore to get a similar drug for my sister-in-law. She had three kids and couldn't afford another," said Nid, a 32-year-old woman who sees herself as a liberal.

In 1981, when attempts to amend the criminal code were under way, abortion rights advocates painted a bleak picture.

On average, they said, there were no fewer than 300,000 abortions every year in Thailand. But the figures were rejected as exaggerated, especially as they were not accompanied by verifiable research.

But one such research paper, published almost two decades later by the Public Health Ministry's Department of Health, reported that in 1999 almost 46,000 women sought treatment for "abortion-related illnesses" at 757 state-run hospitals.

The findings appeared to substantiate the numbers claimed by abortion advocates. The figures also sound an alarm about the clandestine and unsafe abortion services that many women seek.

Yet the real figures may never be known, said Krittiya Archavanijkul, an associate professor at Mahidol University's Institute for Population and Social Research.

"We can only guess how many abortions are performed here. What we have is the number of women who seek treatment after abortions. Those who have safe abortions won't show up," she said.

A proponent of abortion rights, Dr Krittiya believes legal, state-supported abortion is the safest alternative for women with unwanted pregnancies.

"It's for the sake of their reproductive health. In terms of health care, the state cannot avoid responsibility," she said.

MEANWAD KUNJARA NA AYUTTAYA, Bangkok Post 22/10/05, Summarized by FFW
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Author:Ayuttaya, Meanwad Kunjara Na
Publication:Voices of Thai Women
Date:May 1, 2006
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