Abortion decision making by rural villagers in Thailand must be understood within its broader economic, social and ideological context. Abortion laws are highly restrictive in Thailand, yet abortions remain common. This paper examines rural villagers' normative constructions of the act of abortion and the 'socially embedded morality' they bring to discussions about abortion. The paper is based upon seven focus group discussions with women and men and long-term ethnographic fieldwork in rural north-east Thailand. Vignettes based upon real stories of women stimulated detailed discussion in the focus groups of the circumstances under which abortion is acceptable. The paper first discusses the social construction of abortion in Thailand, definitions of abortion as Buddhist sin and ethnomedical categorizations of the foetus. Then it describes the major themes that emerged from focus group discussions and interviews on abortion decision making. The material conditions of women and men's lives, changing constructions of children and motherhood, and gender relations were all found to influence reproductive health decisions. Abortion is described through social idioms that allow villagers to reconcile the practice of abortion with acceptable social norms.