Abortion Laws in Thailand and UK; For centuries, abortion has always been regarded as being illegal within the Kingdom of Thailand due to various influences of religion and societal pressures. In this article, you will learn about abortion law and its application.

The debate surrounding the prohibition of abortion, and the reform of abortion within the country is one that has been ongoing for over 30 years, with abortion topics being deemed controversial to discuss openly amongst Thai society.

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man holding a poster says abortion equal to human rights in new York protest
Abortion is a prevalent issue in Thailand

Abortion Laws and Abortion Laws in Thailand and the UK

The debate surrounding abortion centers largely around the discussion of access to reproductive health services and contraceptives, as well as the right to reproductive health. The debate surrounding abortion within Thailand is also largely influenced by the country’s strong Buddhist presence, its fluctuating economy, an unstable political system.

Abortion is a prevalent issue in Thailand. However, its root cause is unplanned pregnancies resulting from having no access to contraceptives and reproductive health services. It can be estimated that the majority of the population of sexually active women in Thailand rely heavily on over the counter contraceptive pills, which do not always prove to be effective.

It is estimated that over 75.2% of women in the country are sexually active, while around 28.4% of married women rely heavily on over the counter contraceptive pills.

Abortion Laws

With contraceptive pills being the most common form of contraception found in the country, it is still shocking to see a high presence of unplanned pregnancies simply due to the fact that these women do not have access to sexual education, access to proper health care services and in some cases, women are not educated about the contraceptives they are taking.

With unplanned pregnancies, and less access to health care services, and with abortion being prohibited by the law, a study showed that these factors largely contributed to high morbidity and mortality rates, as well as illegal induced abortion.

It was found that illegal abortions occurred primarily in rural areas where women do not have easy access to health care services, and in most cases can’t afford health care services. It was reported that there were over 45,000 cases of illegal abortions present in health clinics, and of those 45,000, 28.5% of women had induced abortion through spontaneous methods.

Thus, one issue surrounding the debate around abortion in thailand is the lack of access to health care services, and lack of access to education regarding contraceptive pills and safe sex methods.

In a country that is heavily reliant on the Buddhist religion, it is no surprise that the debate surrounding abortion in Thailand stems from religious beliefs and practices.

The Buddhist religion values life and believes in the principle of reincarnation.

pregnant lady raising a doll over the head
Abortion laws in Thailand

Much like pro-life supporters, Buddhism believes that the fetus itself should be regarded as having human-like properties, and should be valued with the notion that it has a right to life.

The idea of abortion amongst Buddhist beliefs is considered as being an act of sin, where abortion is regarded as being a life-destroying act. It is this belief that has caused a large number of unwanted pregnancies across the country, as women fear being shunned and sinned for committing an act of abortion.

The fundamental principles of Buddhism place emphasis on the concept of abortion as a sin, and absolutely disregard abortion regardless of the case. However, as time has progressed, Buddhism has also modernized to the point where there has been some middle ground surrounding the debate of abortion.

Although abortion is still regarded as a sin, women do not necessarily feel like they are being shunned if the abortion is carried out under the circumstances that the pregnancy could cause harm to the physical and mental health of the mother.

However, in a country that is made up of over 93% of Buddhist, it is no wonder why the debate surrounding abortion today still stems back to religious beliefs and the belief of committing a sin if an abortion were to be carried out.

Abortion Law in Thailand

For decades, abortion was regarded as being illegal within the Kingdom of Thailand due to several reasons. It was during the Siam era in which the country saw abortion being treated as a penal crime, where under the rule of King Rama I, the law was established to punish those who have caused an abortion. This law could be further detailed under the Three Seals of Law during the early Siamese legal code.

During this era, abortion was considered as a severe crime, wherein the instances if a women died as a result of induced abortion, the person inducing the abortion could face the death penalty, and instances in which the abortion was successful, both the woman and the person inducing the abortion faced hefty fines and long prison sentences. This was an era in which there were no exceptions to abortion, and it was an era that denied women of their reproductive rights by punishing them rather than providing women with the right to choose.

The abortion law reform began in 1957, where the Thai Law gradually changed and it was known as a period of abortion law reform across the country. The changes made during this era were primarily to the penal code and the criminal code, where abortion still was not widely accepted however the code included exceptions in which a woman could carry out an abortion. These exceptions are in the case a pregnancy was due to a cause of rape, or if the pregnancy poses a serious risk to a woman’s health.

The legal reform concerning abortion saw the establishment of several penal and criminal codes that helped to regulate unsafe abortion practices as well as to guarantee that women are more educated about their sexual choices.

The code5 under section 301, 302 and 303 focuses on the penalization of abortion crimes if the abortion is carried out for reasons other than those stated in the exceptions. The exception in which an abortion can be carried out can be found under the same code, however, the exception is under section 3056.

Thus, under Thai law abortion is still largely considered as being prohibited and illegal across the country where women who wish to have an abortion and whose pregnancy is not a result of rape nor does it harm her physical health still do not have the right of choice, therefore it can be said that Thailand does not view abortion under the scope of human rights as human rights entails all women should not be denied of their fundamental rights.

As of present, the views surrounding abortion and the debate about abortion within the country are shifting and changing. There have been new reform efforts to try and change the law to allow for more access to abortion methods and to reduce the severity of punishment if an abortion was to be carried out.

The reform centers around providing better choices for women across a legal front, by improving legal situations for women. The reform does not drive its primary focus on abortion itself, but rather tackles the issue by putting emphasis on unplanned pregnancies, and focusing it more on a women’s reproductive health rights.

Abortion Law in the U.K

white color book about abortion law
The U.K is known for allowing abortion in the present day

History Of Abortion in the U.K

The U.K is a country known for allowing abortion in the present day. Nevertheless, several decades ago there was a huge debate surrounding the issue of abortion and the legality of abortion.

During the 1930’s, abortion was generally not accepted across the country where those who carried out abortions were severely punished.

Such was the case of London Gynecologist Aleck Bourne who was charged with performing an illegal act of abortion. However, although abortion was deemed as being illegal, the debate surrounding the legality of abortion stemmed from this case as to whether abortion should be legal in the instances if pregnancy could harm a woman’s mental and physical health.

This case was an example that lead to the debate surrounding abortion to be discusses more liberally across the country and had further lead to the implementation and establishment of the abortion act.

Abortion Act

The abortion act7 is an act that established by MP David Steel. The act showed a reform in the abortion law, and the attitudes of medical practitioners by permitting them to perform an abortion only in the case where 2 or more doctors agree that there are medical grounds for carrying out an abortion.

These medical grounds refer to the time period in of a pregnancy in which an abortion can be carried out, and focus on how the pregnancy would harm a woman’s physical and mental health if it were to be carried to full term.

Although the policy focuses on allowing abortions to be carried out legally on medical purposes, and on medical grounds it can be said that since the act was passed, over 8.4 million abortions have been induced with most of them being carried out for social reasons rather than on medical grounds.

It is generally accepted that the concept of abortion, and the act of abortion in the United Kingdom remains largely unlawful other than the exceptions stated for in the abortion act. However, 2011 saw a chance in reform of the act and the attitudes of abortion across the country by arguing for abortion through focusing on a woman’s mental health.

The debate in 2011 argued that abortion should become more widely accepted and women should have easier access to abortion practices due to the fact that many women who carried their pregnancy to term had faced severe mental health complications, and that not having access to abortion had caused severe stress on a woman’s mental health.

It was also argued that any unwanted pregnancy posed as a serious threat to a woman’s mental health, and therefore should be accepted by the law and should allow the law to permit women to have an abortion based on the principle of unwantedness.

U.K and Human Rights

Although abortion in the U.K is now widely accepted and women have access to abortion under the pretense that it harms a woman’s mental health, there are still instances where the law violates fundamental principles of human rights surrounding abortion, and instances where the denial of such rights violates the general principle of human rights.

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Abortion is not generally accepted in Ireland, which is a part of the United Kingdom, thus it brings forth the debate that the region’s abortion laws are in fact a breach of human rights and women’s rights.

In Northern Ireland, abortion is illegal in almost every form and circumstance and is only accepted for the exception where the pregnancy could pose a direct threat to the life of a woman.

Since it is legal almost everywhere across the U.K, and this exception in Northern Ireland, it brings about the debate of violation of women’s rights by arguing that by denying a woman the right to abortion, the region is denying a woman the right to choose and the right to her reproductive health.


Thailand and the United Kingdom are countries that have both faced a long battle and history surrounding the debate about abortion. However, the key difference between the two countries is their attitudes towards abortion and the scope of abortion under the fundamental principles of human rights.

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