Thai Catholics have committed themselves to being the ‘voice of unborn children’ after lawmakers in the country voted in favor of allowing abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Caritas Thailand, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Thailand (CBCT), the Catholic Social Communication of Thailand (CSCT), Archdiocese of Bangkok, the Catholic Commission for Women and the Federation of Religious Superiors Thailand hosted a seminar on Jan. 28 to reaffirm the Church’s position on abortion with respect to an amendment passed in a late-night session of the Senate three days earlier.
Legislators voted 166-7 in favor of amending a law that criminalizes abortion, backing a plan that its promotors say seeks to tackle unregulated terminations by non-medical practitioners. The amendment will allow women to have the abortion within the 12-week time frame for any reason.
Father Suthep Vanapongthipakorn, secretary of the Consulting Committee for Economic and National Governance for the Catholic Bishops Conference of Thailand, told seminar attendants that the amendment was in response to a complaint filed in February 2020 that the current criminal law on abortion contradicted a constitutional law that men and women have equal rights.
Under the amendment, an abortion after 12 weeks would be allowed only in certain conditions and would otherwise be punishable by up to six months in prison, or a fine of up to 10,000 baht ($334) or both. Under the new criteria, a termination after 12 weeks would be allowed if a certified doctor deems there is a high risk of fetal impairment, danger to the life of the mother, or if a pregnancy was the result of rape, deception or coercion.
In his address Father Suthep went on to quote Pope Francis who asked: “Is it legitimate to take out a human life to solve a problem?”
Voice of the unborn child
Father Suthep was one of the 100 plus Catholics from all over Thailand participating in the seminar on-site at the CBCT and through ZOOM and Caritas Thailand’s Facebook page. Others included Father Pairat Sriprasert, the secretary general of Caritas Thailand, who said that Catholic organizations in the country have been supporting women in need as well as abandoned children.
“Catholic schools have assisted with this issue and have helped to provide abandoned children with an education,” Father Pairat said.
Sister Anurak Chaiyapuek, RGS, the director of Dokmaipah Home for Women and Children in Chiang Mai, said that the unborn child is not the problem.
“It is the adults who do not want to solve their problems, so they choose abortion,” Sister Anurak said, adding “we want to be the voice of the unborn child.”
Father Chertchai Lertchitleka, the director of Camilian Hospital in Bangkok, also attended the event.
“There are silent cries from babies who are aborted. We must be the voice of the voiceless,” Father Chertchai affirmed.
The amended legislation won’t officially be law until a royal gazette announcement is made which is expected next month.
Before the Senate vote the Catholic Bishops Conference of Thailand asked the country’s bishops and heads of religious congregations to join a petition opposing of the amendment.
The bishops said they had earlier reaffirmed the Church’s position on abortion to Thailand’s House of Representatives, the Senate, as well as the chairperson of the Senate Standing Committee on Religions, Morals, Ethics, Arts and Culture.
The nearly 400,000 Catholics in Thailand make up a little more than 0.5 percent of the country’s 65 million plus population. Abortion is also considered a sin akin to murder in the Theravada Buddhism adhered to by the majority of Thais.