The background to this story per the BBC:
Police in Thailand have found the remains of more than 300 human foetuses hidden in a Buddhist temple in the capital, Bangkok.
/>The police say they suspect the foetuses came from illegal abortion clinics.
/>News reports say a member of the temple staff confessed to being hired by several clinics to dispose of remains.
/>Abortion is illegal in Thailand, except when the pregnancy affects the mother’s health or is the result of rape.
BP: The 300 corpses increased to more than 2,000 corposes per AP:
On the grounds of a Buddhist temple, dozens of white plastic bags lay in carefully arranged rows. Each sack was knotted at the top and contained the remains of a fetus.
/>Thai authorities found about 2,000 remains in the temple’s mortuary, where they had been hidden for a year — apparently to conceal illegal abortions.
/>Abortion is illegal in Thailand except under three conditions — if a woman is raped, if the pregnancy affects her health or if the fetus is abnormal.
/>Although Thailand is home to a huge and active sex industry, many Thais are conservative on sexual matters, and Buddhist activists especially oppose liberalizing abortion laws.
/>Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Friday that more must be done to prevent illegal abortions but that his government would not revise the laws. He said his government has discussed the matter and believed that “the existing laws are appropriate and flexible enough.”
/>Several people have already been arrested in the case: two undertakers for hiding bodies to conceal the cause of death and an abortion clinic employee on charges of operating an unlicensed medical clinic and performing abortions. The undertakers could each be sent to prison for up to a year and fined 2,000 baht ($67). The clinic employee — who police said confessed she had delivered the fetuses to the morgue workers starting early this year — could face up to five years in jail and a fine of 10,000 baht ($333).
Matichon reports the Health Minister (a Democrat) as saying that the Ministry agrees with the PM and stressed the need for better sex education, but there was also a Suan Dusit poll released today which BP has summarized below:
1,458 people in Bangkok and neighbouring provinces were surveyed between November 18 -21.
Q . Do you think aborition is an individual right/comes from necessity of an individual? (ประชาชนคิดว่าการทำแท้งเป็นสิทธิส่วนบุคคล /มาจากความจำเป็นของแต่ละคนหรือไม่?)
A. Yes, 47.17% because it is the decision of the person giving birth and it may arise from not being prepared or from necessity of an individual (ถือว่าเป็นการตัดสินใจของผู้ที่ให้กำเนิดเอง สิ่งที่เกิดขึ้นอาจมาจากความไม่พร้อมหรือความจำเป็นของแต่ละคน ฯลฯ)
B. Unsure, 30.19% because those that have an abortion have a reason or a necessity in doing so which is different for individuals, but deep in their hearts the mother can accept the child (คิดว่าคนที่มาทำแท้งน่าจะมีเหตุผลหรือความจำเป็นที่แตกต่างกันออกไป ในใจลึกๆแล้วเชื่อว่าคนเป็นแม่ย่อมรักลูก ฯลฯ)
/>C. No, 22.64% because the law specifies that abortion is illegal and immoral (ตามกฎหมายได้ระบุไว้แล้วว่าการทำแท้งเป็นเรื่องผิดกฎหมายและผิดศีลธรรม ฯลฯ)
Q. Should the law be amended on this point? (ถ้าจะมีการแก้ไขกฎหมายเพื่อให้ตรงกับเรื่องนี้ออกมา ประชาชนเห็นด้วยหรือไม่?)
/>A. Yes, 65.62% because Thai society has significantly changed. Sexual intercourse without using protection occurs easily. Many people consider an abortion to be normal or the best solution (สังคมไทยในปัจจุบันเปลี่ยนแปลงไปมาก การมีเพศสัมพันธ์โดยขาดการป้องกันเกิดขึ้นได้ง่าย บางคนคิดว่าการทำแท้งเป็นเรื่องปกติ หรือเป็นทางออกที่ดีที่สุด ฯลฯ)
B. Unsure, 21.72% because amending the law on its own is not the solution. Knowledge and education should also be given (การแก้ไขกฎหมายอย่างเดียวคงไม่ได้ผล ควรให้ความรู้หรือให้การศึกษาในเรื่องนี้ควบคู่ไปด้วยจะดีกว่า ฯลฯ)
C. No, 12.66% because it depends on an individual’s thinking or judgment. Laws or prohibitions against destroying life or actions against morality are already specified (ขึ้นอยู่กับความคิดและวิจารณญาณของแต่ละคน กฎหมายหรือข้อห้ามต่างๆ เกี่ยวกับการทำลายชีวิต ทำผิดศีลธรรม ก็มีระบุไว้อยู่แล้ว ฯลฯ
BP: It would have been better if the question was clearer about legalizing abortion or not because there is no indication on the extent of the amendments they want.
Nevertheless, despite the PM and the Health Minister not advocating law change, a Democrat MP has come out today to propose a change in the law. MCOT:
Satit Pitutacha, an administrative committee member of the Democrat Party and an MP representing the eastern province of Rayong, told journalists that he and fellow MPs with similar ideas on legal abortion will submit the draft law for debate during the next Lower House session.
/>If approved, the new law would allow an unprepared mother or parents to undertake an abortion, by setting up an agency to screen the unprepared requesting mother for an abortion. Applicants must register before receiving an abortion, Mr Satit said.
/>Benefits to be obtained from the law, if approved, are a decline in the death rate of mothers during abortion and reducing the legal guilt for abortion clinics, he said.
/>Applicants must bear entire expense, he said, adding that the law could reduce social problems by reducing ‘low quality’ population in the country.
Before getting to that last sentence, it seems fairly standard although from Post Today he says that this is not no-questions-asked-abortion (for want of a better phrase) and seeks to place conditions on legal abortions and that a need must be shown (i.e lacking money, father of child not providing support etc). He states that the reason for the proposed law change is about preventing deaths to the mother from illegal abortions, solving the problem of having children when the mother is not ready etc. which are fairly standard reasons, but it is his final reason which is reduce social problems which arise from a population of no quality which comes from taking care of children from a family with problems (ลดปัญหาสังคม ที่เกิดจากการมีประชากรที่ไม่มีคุณภาพ ซึ่งจากการเลี้ยงดูบุตรของครอบครัวที่มีปัญหา)
BP: In case you think Post Today and MCOT both have it wrong, Matichon has the same quote. Technically, he says “no quality” although in English “low quality” sounds more natural (well, as natural as it can be). It really sounds like he is selling the idea of abortion to get rid of undesireable members of society. Now, of course, there is actually academic research from the US showing that abortion reduces the crime rate, per the authors of Freakonomics in the NYT:
John Donohue and I have argued that the legalization of abortion in the 1970s reduced crime in the 1990s. The logic is simple: unwanted children have an increased risk of growing up to be criminals, and legalized abortion reduces the number of unwanted children. Consequently, legalized abortion lowers crime in the future.
BP: Now, the end result of the policy maybe a reduction in the crime rate, but selling the idea of legalized abortion to reduce undesireable members of society? BP’s first thought was, what was he thinking? Why on earth would someone publicly state that one of the benefits of abortion is a reduction in the “low quality” population?
Then, a rationale became apparent. Chamlong, one of the key leaders of the PAD, is a hardline anti-abortionist. From his Wikipedia profile:
On April 1, 1981, the Young Turks, frustrated at the slow pace of political reform under Prem, staged a coup, later nicknamed the “April Fools Day” coup. Chamlong refused to take part, instead standing by Prem. The coup collapsed after the royal family, accompanied by Prem to Nakhon Ratchasima Province, announced their support for troops loyal to the government.
/>A rift between Chamlong and Prem later erupted when the lower house of Parliament passed a law legalizing abortions in cases of rape and in situations when a pregnant woman’s life was in danger. Chamlong was strongly opposed to what he viewed as “free abortions,” and he resigned as Prem’s secretary and successfully lobbied the Senate to veto the law.
From a profile when he received the Ramon Magsaysay award:
A national issue soon arose, however, that alienated Chamlong from Prem’s government. With the support of Prem’s cabinet, Thailand’s lower house passed a new abortion law that was considerably more liberal than the old one. The draft law permitted abortions in cases of rape and when a mother’s life was endangered. Although the law still imposed conditions, Chamlong felt that these conditions were framed so broadly as to be virtually useless. The result, he said, would be “free abortions.” Chamlong believed that such a law violated Buddhism’s reverence for life and that its acceptance in Thailand would lead to unwelcome social changes. “We are going to be destroyed by this kind of law,” he argued.
/>Chamlong was determined to oppose the law in the Senate. In order not to embarrass Prem, he tendered his resignation as secretary general. Prem was reluctant to accept it but he eventually did so, hinting to Chamlong that he agreed with him about the abortion issue. Chamlong then launched a national campaign to mobilize support against the draft law.
/>”I could not convince the senators by myself,” he says. “So I had to go to the people.” Traveling throughout the country, he spoke of the dangers of “free abortion” and its violation of universal religious doctrines. He urged his listeners to write to members of the Senate and other officials about their opposition to the law. Chamlong’s national protest worked and the abortion law died in the Senate.
BP: In fact, Chamlong was the central figure opposed to the amendment of abortion law – see also here and here.Thailand, of course, does not have free legal abortions as Chamlong predicted. Given that the PAD are to protest in front of parliament next week against plans by the government to amend the constitution, how would the Chamlong wing of the PAD react to this proposed abortion law change? They are unlikely to support it. BUT one could sell it to PAD members on pragmatic grounds of preventing the births of “low quality” members of society (who vote for certain politicians)….. Or is BP just being too cynical?