Thailand Revisits Abortion Laws After Grim Discovery The recent discovery of 2,002 dead fetuses at a Buddhist temple in Bangkok has drawn attention to the hidden problem of illegal abortions in Thailand. The scandal contrasts with Thailand's relative success in raising living standards and providing health care and education.
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Thailand Revisits Abortion Laws After Grim Discovery

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Thailand Revisits Abortion Laws After Grim Discovery

Thailand Revisits Abortion Laws After Grim Discovery

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AUDIE CORNISH, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

NPR's Anthony Kuhn has the story from Bangkok.

CORNISH: (Chanting)

ANTHONY KUHN: More than 95 percent of Thais practice Buddhism, which considers abortion a sin.

M: (Thai spoken)

KUHN: Temple spokesman, monk Somprasong Panyavajiro says the temple monks knew there was a mortuary at the back, but it was managed by a temple-appointed caretaker, so the monks seldom went back there.

M: (Through Translator) The temple's administration had no knowledge of the fetuses beforehand. I can assure you that the monks here in the temple were never aware of them. And it was not the temple's intention or aim for things to happen like this.

KUHN: The scandal has also sparked a crackdown on illegal abortion clinics. Thailand has thousands of small, private clinics, and Health Ministry official Tares Krasanairawiwong says the government can't police them all.

M: Just only government agency, we cannot deal with the problem. We cannot inspect all. We urge the people to inspect for us or so and tell us. If there are some complaints, we have a lot of teams to inspect. And if illegal, we shut down.

KUHN: Democrat Party lawmaker Satit Pitutacha plans to introduce legislation making it easier to get an abortion. He argues that this will reduce social problems and crime.

M: (Through Translator) The existing laws do not take into consideration a woman's age, financial status, and readiness for motherhood. The discovery of these fetuses shows that there are a lot of young women in our society who are not prepared to be mothers and who want an abortion. I think they should have safe options and alternatives that they can choose of their own free will.

KUHN: Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, though, disagrees. He says Thai abortion laws are adequate and don't need to be amended. And the Buddhist establishment is also against such change.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHIMES)

KUHN: Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Bangkok.

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