Reproducing inequalities: Abortion policy and practice in Thailand

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Abortion is illegal in Thailand, except in cases when it is considered necessary for a woman's health or in the case of rape. Yet abortions remain common and an important public health issue for women in Thailand. Based upon eight months ethnographic research carried out in Northeast Thailand, this paper presents findings from a survey of 164 women of reproductive age in rural villages and from interviews with 19 women who have had illegal abortions. A range of techniques to induce abortions are used, including the consumption of abortifacients, massage and uterine injections by untrained practitioners and procedures carried out by trained Medical personnel. This paper examines the effects of the current laws through the experiences of women who have undergone illegal abortions. Within the restrictive legal context, risk is stratified along economic lines. Poorer women have little choice but to resort to abortions by untrained practitioners. There is evidence of wide public support for the reform of the abortion laws to widen the circumstances under which abortion is legal. An ongoing movement, led by women's groups, medical and legal professionals, seeks to reform the law.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-119
Number of pages19
JournalWomen and Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Abortion
  • Legal status
  • Qualitative methods
  • Thailand

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