COVID-19 Special Coverage
Thailand Constitutional Court rules criminal code on abortion must be amended
Thailand Constitutional Court rules criminal code on abortion must be amended

The Constitutional Court for the Kingdom of Thailand issued a ruling on Wednesday that a provision in the criminal code regarding abortion violates the Constitution and ordered that it be amended.

Section 301 of the Criminal Code provides that a woman who causes her own abortion or allows someone to perform an abortion on her can be punished by up to three years in prison or up to a 6,000 Baht fine. The issue was brought before the court at the request of Srisamai Chueachart, an obstetrician who had been arrested two years ago for providing abortions. The court found that Section 301 was in violation of sections 27 and 28 of the 2017 Constitution; section 27 provides that “All persons are equal before the law” and that “Men and women shall enjoy equal rights,” while section 28 provides that “A person shall enjoy the right and liberty in his or her life and person.”

The court’s decision regarding section 301 will come into effect in 360 days, or on February 13 next year. It is as yet unclear how the provision should be amended, but the ruling was heralded as a step forward by reproductive rights’ advocates, who have long held that existing law was unclear and deterred health care providers from treating unwanted pregnancies, especially for underage women. Under section 305 of the criminal code, abortions can be performed if they are medically necessary for the health of the woman, in cases of rape, or if the girl is under the age of 15.