Bangkok is a city which never sleeps. It is as intoxicating as it is diverse. It’s full of interesting sights and visual delights. It is said Bangkok is a city with infinite layers which you need to explore to reveal its hidden secrets. For me this time the center of attraction was “Cabbages & Condoms: A Condom themed restaurant”. I had a dream to visit this restaurant and to know the reason for its attraction for many foreigners.
Then Dr. Suchitra Dalvie, Coordinator of Asia Safe Abortion Partnership (ASAP) made me more curious by sharing there is an abortion clinic too. The restaurant says, “Our food is guaranteed not to cause Pregnancy”. This September, there were four Youth Champions attending “ICPD Regional Review Meeting” organized by UNESCAP in Bangkok. We arranged our time to go around the restaurant and visit the abortion clinic.
Condom itself comprises with social stigma and discrimination. People till date do not like to talk about their sexual life and they stay away from the conversation which deals with SRHR and condoms. But this restaurant popularly known as C&C was conceptualized in part to promote better understanding and acceptance of family planning and to generate income to support various development activities of the Population and Community Development Association (PDA). It is actually a very unique concept.
Contrast to my thought the place was very quiet and peaceful. It is more over sober place to go and have dinner and come back. I remember Dr. Dalvie warning me, “Dear!! you won’t get chance to enjoy loud music and dance that we did last time in Village restaurant, Mumbai.” Despite this I enjoyed the funny yet informative messages being displayed on the walls. We really had great time and a bit of shopping in the handicraft shop of the restaurant.
Then we were introduced to Ms. Chompoo. She works in Women on Web, Thailand. Well Women on Web is an online abortion help service for countries where there is no access to “Safe Abortion Service”. The abortion is done with Mifepristone and Misoprostol at home before the 9th week of pregnancy, the medicines are sent by mail under the supervision of a doctor.
After Kinga, Chompoo is the second person whom I personally met who runs online abortion services. She introduced us to the Abortion Clinic. Ok! Talking about legalization of abortion in Thailand Champoo shared, “abortion is highly restricted except in cases when it is committed by a medical practitioner and is considered only as necessary if the same endangers the health of the mother or when the pregnancy is due to sexual offenses such as rape and incest.” She further added, “Abortion comes alone with different social and religious stigma. I support the argument that abortion will eliminate gender discrimination as law allowing abortion will promote the “right of women to choose.”
Chompoo also shared that the abortion online services has helped many young women to seek safe abortion services. As abortion in Thailand is taken as a sin, people are deprived of the information and access to safe abortion which is leading cause to increasing illegal abortions. Thailand being Buddhist country argues that life of the unborn fetus should be protected as it is also given value as a human being. Hats off!! to Chompoo as she is working so hard to save the life of women in a prolife community.
We came to know that the clinic provides safe abortion service upto 6 weeks. Later than this is referred to hospitals where the service providers are bound with law to terminate pregnancies if it is due to rape or incest. If not, women have to seek unsafe abortion. The clinic provides both methods of abortion MVA and MA. The counselor shared there are many young girls visiting the clinic for the safe abortion services who are mostly referred by Champoo. They maintain privacy and youth friendly environment. The young girls are only sometime accompanied by their parents and partners. Most of the time, they come alone and seek services.
As we youth champion are from different countries: Nepal, Iran, Philippine and China, the counselor and Champoo were also eager to know about our country scenario regarding abortion law and policies. Iran and Philippine have highly restricted laws regarding safe abortion whereas Nepal and China has flexible laws and abortion is legal in both the countries.
Yu Yang from China shared his experience how he had helped a young lady from Philippine to access safe abortion in China. It was costly as he had to take her to private hospital as government hospitals need citizenship card to access services in China. This particular sharing shows that how young women are vulnerable and the government is not taking any responsibility to provide abortion service. They see abortion service not as the part of health service.
At the end of the day, we had great learning from the visit to Cabbages and Condoms as well as the abortion clinic. Sincere thanks to ASAP for arranging meeting with Chompoo. The gratitude also goes to Chompoo for being available on the day and introducing us to safe abortion service counselor and taking around the clinic.