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2002 aborted foetuses found are just a downstream river. Go upstream to look from a different angle.

 2002 aborted foetuses found are just a downstream river. Go upstream to look from a different angle.

January, 2011

The news on 2,002 aborted foetuses found at a crematory in Wat Phai Ngern Temple in October 2010 caught the media and public attention. I have waited for the heat to cool down before having my say on this matter. 

This certain news stirs up criticisms in various ways. Some blame corrupted society, spoiled youth, outdated laws, while others point finger at women with their evil deeds. Illegal practice of abortion and revision of laws are also discussed. 

On Sunday, 29th November, 2010, I had a chance to attend a discussion forum with some experts on “solutions of unplanned pregnancy and abortion” held at Wat Phai Ngern crematorium. This issue related to one of the resolutions of the National Health Assembly 2010. Some interesting topics beyond abortion issue arose:

1)    This phenomenon is only the iceberg tip of “unplanned pregnancy” of which 100,000 cases are expected each year. The numbers appeared on the news are only a small part of the whole problem. Every relevant party should seriously work hand-in-hand on the issue as its size and impact to the society is considerably enormous.

2)    Unplanned pregnancy in the teenagers, so-called “young mothers”, is only one third of the whole number. The problem is not only about having sex before the appropriate age  but also unplanned pregnancy of the adults which has a substantial number. 

Unplanned pregnancy in the teenagers is a serious social problem because they cannot rely on themselves in terms of living and livelihood. Their stories end up with limited ways. If they choose to keep the baby, they are too young to bring up their children, so the babies will be given away to other family members or deserted. In some cases, fathers leave mothers to raise children on their own while others. If they choose to end their pregnancy, they are condemned. In the worse case, if women have an unsafe abortion technique, their reputation is endangered and their health is also risky or even face death.      
Apparently, women with unplanned pregnancy, especially the young, have few choices. The situation is even worse if their families, friends and society do not empathize but condemn them. Instead of care or relief offered, they become social victims. Hence, the society should learn and share attitudes toward the issue and go beyond condemnation or finger pointing in order that these women are not marginalized.   

3)    Unplanned pregnancy in the adults (over 20) is in a large number. The pregnancy maybe happens because of ineffective or failed birth control methods or during economic struggles.

Nowadays, the society is more complex than before. Social values have changed. A lot of couples choose to live together in partnership without marriage. Among them, some accidentally get pregnant, and this results in either birth or abortion. Social judgments on this issue has to respect individual’s choice and consider from various angles.

4)    There is no ideal society. What we can do is to understand the changes and build up support to encourage good deeds and discourage negative practices without stigmatizing or judging with rigid frames of mind.
It is still true that we should encourage people to be morally responsible: women should restrain from having sex before marriage while men should respect and not take advantages of their female counterpart. Preaching on the matter, however, does not work so well anymore in this changing society.  

5)    Alongside with changing of attitudes, the society should immunize children and youth as well as adults with the fact that sexual relations are natural and can happen to anybody. Sex education for the young should start earlier, done by both parents and teachers with appropriate learning and training.

This should not be viewed as pointing out the way for the villain. As there are too many “ways” that children, teenagers and adults can access to sexual contents through different media and channels whereas there are little correct understanding on sex and protection from bad consequences including HIV/AIDS and other STIs, unplanned pregnancy, unsafe and fatal abortion etc.   

The resolution on unplanned pregnancy in teenagers   of the National Health Assembly  2010   recommended that high-quality and thorough learning and teaching system on comprehensive sexuality education and life skills should be set up. At least 18 periods/a year of sex education is provided as fundamental or elective prescribed course so that every school and university student gain comprehensive knowledge, understanding and skills about sexuality education. Also, suitable learning and teaching of sexuality education will be provided for the youth beyond the formal education system.”

In the forum, a university student shared his experience of his secondary school life. As the head of the class, a friend who had sex came to him for fear that his girlfriend could get pregnant. This student was frustrated as he could not give his friend any advice for he himself did not know anything about the issue either.   

6)    Whatever problem arising from unsafe sex, women are those who always suffer most. The society needs to understand, empathize and give choices for help including appropriate counseling, permission granted for young mothers to continue studying during pregnancy and take leave to take care of baby, provision of temporary shelter safe from social stigmatization, nursing care or adoption system for the children from unplanned pregnancy. Equipped with all this, women will not be pushed to face the problems alone.
7)    Debates on abortion in terms of laws revision/enactment/enforcement are not solutions for unplanned pregnancy as it does not tackle the root causes. Abortion is not a major and only way out of unplanned pregnancy.    It is one solution for some people who cannot afford other ways.  And under the existing laws, a number of abortions is done relatively safe compared to the past.

When I was an intern student at Vajira Hospital, on my duty at Obstetrics-Gynaecology ward, in one day I had to perform curettage to treat bleeding from abortion for many cases. Some lives were saved from infection. Abortion, hence, is not new but has existed for a long time. Nowadays, abortion has been done by whomever safer than the past. In order to understand current social phenomena and problems, it is inevitable to look at them from a different angle. 

 Amphon Jindawatthana
Secretary General
National Health Commission