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Abortion in Asia

Abortion in Asia: Local Dilemmas, Global Politics

Edited by Andrea Whittaker
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 270
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  • Book Info
    Abortion in Asia
    Book Description:

    The issue of abortion forces a confrontation with the effects of poverty and economic inequalities, local moral worlds, and the cultural and social perceptions of the female body, gender, and reproduction. Based on extensive original field research, this provocative collection presents case studies from Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and India. It includes powerful insight into the conditions and hard choices faced by women and the circumstances surrounding unplanned pregnancies. It explores the connections among poverty, violence, barriers to access, and the politics and strategies involved in abortion law reform. The contributors analyze these issues within the broader conflicts surrounding women's status, gender roles, religion, nationalism and modernity, as well as the global politics of reproductive health.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-975-8
    Subjects: Anthropology, Health Sciences

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. Contributors
    (pp. x-xii)
  6. Chapter One Abortion in Asia: An overview
    (pp. 1-38)
    Andrea Whittaker

    At my age [forty-five years old] itʹs not normal [to be pregnant] is it?… Iʹm not young and strong any more. Thereʹs no way Iʹd be able to raise it. So I went to Bangkok. My younger sister is in Bangkok so she took me… They injected some medicine in. Made my stomach hurt. I gave birth just the same as youʹd give birth to a child. I didnʹt know how they did it, I just lay down. Lay down on a bed and gave birth there on the bed itself. I could see young people, they were crying, it...

  7. Chapter Two Contraceptive use and unsafe abortion in rural Cambodia
    (pp. 39-55)
    Elizabeth Hoban, Tung Rathavy and Phirun Lam

    I was in Krasung Village this morning visiting grandmother Boeur when Sopha, a neighbour and son of the villagekrue khmer(traditional healer) also called by. Sopha asked grandmother Boeur if he could have a root of themoromtree that was near her house. He told us that his wife Oung was pregnant and she had miscarried the previous night. Sopha had seen the foetus and placenta expelled. He asked grandmother Boeur for three roots of themoromtree, as he wanted to prepare a hot herbal drink for Oung using the roots. Themoromtree root is well...

  8. Chapter Three Between remembering and forgetting: Maintaining moral motherhood after late-term abortion
    (pp. 56-77)
    Tine M. Gammeltoft

    Between 2003 and 2006 I got to know a number of women living in Vietnamʹs capital, Hanoi, who opted to terminate a wanted pregnancy because the foetus had been diagnosed through an ultrasonography as ʹabnormalʹ. In this chapter I examine how women and their relatives sought to come to terms with this unsettling experience in ways that enabled them to maintain personal and familial moral virtue while also protecting the womanʹs future reproductive capacities.

    In present-day Vietnam, obstetrical ultrasound scanning and other technologies for prenatal diagnosis are proliferating, becoming increasingly routinised parts of pregnancy care (Gammeltoft 2007a). As a consequence...

  9. Chapter Four Violence, poverty and ʹweaknessʹ– Interpersonal and institutional reasons why Burmese women on the Thai border utilise abortion
    (pp. 78-101)
    Suzanne Belton

    To develop policies or programmes that assist women and minimise unsafe abortions, we need to understand not only who the women are and their beliefs, but also how abortion takes place and who is practicing it, as well as the events that influence womenʹs decisions to abort. This chapter explores why Burmese women on the Thai border utilise abortion. The majority of the women in this study are forced migrants, working in Thailand for a variety of reasons, including political and economic insecurity and to escape human rights abuses in Burma (Myanmar)¹. It is based upon work completed for a...

  10. Chapter Five Quality of care and pregnancy terminations for adolescent women in urban slums, Bangladesh
    (pp. 102-122)
    Sabina Faiz Rashid

    There is much disparity in the quality of abortion services, both in countries where abortion is legal and where it is illegal. There is no guarantee that, just because the service is permitted by the state, it will be safe (Warriner and Shah, 2006; Standing, 2007). Abortion in Bangladesh is legally restricted under the Bangladesh Penal Code. However, menstrual regulation (MR), which is defined as a method of ensuring/confirming non-pregnancy for a woman at risk of being pregnant, is allowed.¹ The World Health Organization (WHO) defines menstrual regulation as ʹearly uterine evacuation without laboratory or ultrasound confirmation of pregnancy for...

  11. Chapter Six Choosing abortion providers in rural Tamil Nadu: Balancing costs and quality of care
    (pp. 123-148)
    Lakshmi Ramachandar and Pertti J. Pelto

    Since the introduction of relatively liberal abortion laws in India after 1972, a wide variety of abortion services have become accessible, even in remote areas (Duggal 2003: 47).¹ In urbanised areas, and even in many rural parts of India, there are now large numbers of medically trained abortion providers, although a considerable portion of those practitioners are not officially certified for medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) by government authorities (Duggal and Ramachandran 2004). This chapter examines the complex factors that affect womenʹs and their familiesʹ decision-making concerning abortion providers in a rural district in south India. In particular, we focus...

  12. Chapter Seven Abortion in Vietnam: History, culture and politics collide in the era of doi moi
    (pp. 149-174)
    Merrill Wolf, Phan Bich Thuy, Alyson Hyman and Amanda Huber

    In recent years, the convergence of diverse cultural, political, demographic and economic forces has brought dramatic, often challenging transformations to many spheres of Vietnamese life. These transformations are clearly evident in both public and private approaches to sexuality and reproduction, as the countryʹs population strives to reconcile deep-seated beliefs and long-standing customs with new aspirations and social conditions.

    Such challenges are not uncommon in countries undergoing demographic and related transitions similar to those underway in Vietnam. However, factors unique to Vietnamʹs culture and history – including rapid economic and social change resulting from its recent emergence from global political isolation...

  13. Chapter Eight Abortion and politics in Indonesia
    (pp. 175-198)
    Terence H. Hull and Ninuk Widyantoro

    Abortion presents a confused challenge to the public health and legal systems of Indonesia. While it is variously argued that one to two million abortions take place each year, there are no representative statistics on the characteristics of women seeking pregnancy termination and few sources of data on morbidity and maternal mortality related to abortion. Since the mid 1970s, committed activists around the country have pressed to have the legal status of abortion reformed and the clinical setting of procedures improved, but to little avail. This chapter tells the story of efforts at abortion law reform carried out by NGOs...

  14. Chapter Nine Access to abortion services in Malaysia: A rights-based approach
    (pp. 199-220)
    Rashidah Abdullah and Yut-Lin Wong

    Despite relatively liberal abortion laws in Malaysia, there are wide spread misconceptions among Malaysians that abortion is illegal. Access to abortion services remains restricted in the public health care system. In contrast, expensive private-sector services, while widely available, cannot be accessed by low-income women. Disadvantaged women, such as those in violent relationships, poor women and unmarried women who have unwanted pregnancies experience difficulty accessing abortion despite their legal rights. In 2003, the incidence of abortion in Malaysia was reported as thirty-eight per one thousand women aged fifteen to forty-nine (Family Care International, 2003:4). However, due to the current legal and...

  15. Chapter Ten Improving access to safe termination of pregnancy in Thailand: An analysis of policy developments from 1999 to 2006
    (pp. 221-239)
    Nongluk Boonthai, Sripen Tantivess, Viroj Tangcharoensathien and Kamheang Chaturachinda

    Unsafe abortions, especially those performed by non-health personnel, have long been a notable health problem in Thailand. The Thai Criminal Code of 1957 restricted the legal termination of pregnancy to cases where a womanʹs physical health was at risk or the pregnancy was due to rape.¹ Other potential indications for therapeutic abortion, such as a womanʹs mental health, foetal health conditions such as severe congenital malformations, or socioeconomic aspects, were not legally permitted. This resulted in painful dilemmas for women and medical staff, and contributed to unsafe abortion, mortality, morbidity and long-term negative consequences for Thai women and their families....

  16. Chapter Eleven Epilogue: Further challenges
    (pp. 240-247)
    Andrea Whittaker

    The study of abortion challenges us as researchers and advocates. This book strives to reflect current concerns in social science scholarship on abortion in Asia and consider the status of advocacy in the region. In this brief epilogue, I consider some of the contributions of this book to the study of reproduction more broadly and consider questions for further research.

    The contributions of this book place abortion within the social management of fertility rather than situating it as a separate, extraordinary category. The various chapters remind us that abortion is not something divorced from gender relations, sexuality, marriage, family formation...

  17. Glossary
    (pp. 248-249)
  18. Index
    (pp. 250-253)