The Nation


Senate fights bill on legal abortion

Insists birth-control, sex-education a much better way to deal with the issue

The Senate yesterday opposed the widely discussed legal amendment that eases the conditions for legal abortion, saying that systematic and effective sex education would be a better way to deal with the issue.
After an hour-long discussion on the gruesome discovery of 2,002 dead foetuses at a Bangkok temple, Senator Jate Siratharanont called on the prime minister to speed up the vetting process and pass the pro-life Reproductive Health Bill.
Senator Phornphan Bunyarattaphan said the bill focused on preventative measures, cultural awareness and education on effective birth-control methods.
The bill also requires government-run facilities to accommodate young mothers as well as to provide them and their newborn with free healthcare and free birth control.
Meanwhile, investigation by the Public Health Ministry uncovered a clinic in Pathum Thani's Talad Thai area that is suspected of carrying out illegal abortions. This is one of the 25 privately-run clinics in Bangkok and nearby provinces inspected so far.
This clinic has been operating without a licence for three years and a joint inspection by police and ministry officials last Thursday found files recording pregnancy-related diagnoses and "late menstruation" for many female clients.
The ministry said the clinic had suspended its operation at its own initiative, and was in the process of seeking a licence. A senior official, Thares Karassanairawiwong, said its location was "a vast site" which made inspection difficult.
Public Health Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said all aspects of legal abortion should be closely discussed and the conditions should be free enough to allow "free illegal abortion" as has been recently coined by the press.
He said the bill could not possibly be submitted to the Cabinet for approval next Tuesday, because there were many other items on the agenda, including the much-heralded constitutional amendment.
Meanwhile, the issue of whether or not the foetuses found at Phai Ngern Temple should be cremated will soon be discussed by relevant agencies, including the National Buddhism Office.
Under regulations, dead bodies can only be cremated after the completion of autopsy, which the Chulalongkorn Hospital has 48 days to complete. However, as per traditional belief, bodies of unborn or babies who die before having all their milk teeth are not cremated, but buried instead.
Meanwhile, the abbot suspended Suthep Chabangbon and Suchart Phoomee, the undertakers who hid and disposed of the foetuses, yesterday. They have been released on bail and are staying at the temple.
The abbot, Phra Khru Wijit Sorrakhun, who gave his first media interview since the discovery last week, said he had learned of the cremation of foetuses on many occasions, but death certification was provided in all cases. "I am not aware of such a thing [illegal cremation and disposal] taking place in the temple," he added.
A Buddhist merit-making ceremony will be held at the temple on Saturday for the dead babies.

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