A couple of weeks ago, I had an abortion in Bangkok and I would like to share my experiences with women who might consider having an abortion in Thailand’s capital. This post is not meant for women (or men) who would like to discuss the pros and cons of abortion in general. I can assure all of them that I have thought about the topic in great detail and that the decision was not taken lightly.
First of all: abortion in Thailand is now legal up to week 12 of your pregnancy. A law to that effect has been passed recently but is not published widely because public opinion on abortion is still very negative.
Getting information turned out to be very difficult. Some websites recommend the PPAT (Planned Parenthood Association Thailand), and I got in touch with them, but my Thai skills leave a lot to be desired, and nobody really spoke English there. In the end and after several calls, I got the phone number of the “Klong Tun Medical Center” off Phetchaburi Road. It was similarly difficult to get hold of anybody there, but finally I was put through to a woman whose proper Thai name I do not know, but which sounded a lot like “Ms Saritá”.
She told me that I had to come and see her, and then she would tell me how to go about the abortion. It sounded pretty straightforward. On the following day I took a taxi to the medical center. It is Thai people only, and it is a bit seedy but I wasn’t expecting anything fancy either. At reception, I had to explain what my visit was about, and then “Ms Saritá” came to see me and showed me into another building where I would get my proper counselling. I did not see her again. I sat down in a waiting area that reminded me of the waiting rooms in a small train station here. Not very comforting. Then, a pretty resolute woman showed up, told me that I would be examined to see “how far” I was, and after paying 200 Baht I was shown into a little cubicle where a nurse ultrasounded me. 9 weeks.
Afterwards, I was shown into Resolute Woman’s cubicle, where she explained that it was too late for a medical abortion, which I was aware of. She said that the procedure would thus be more complicated and that there would be pain, “especially during the last stage”. She also told me that I would deal with it, and that I COULD get painkillers, but… This seemed to imply that I should go through with it without painkillers, since I was contemplating abortion at all. As a kind of “punishment”. At least that’s how I interpreted it.
She also said I would have the choice to either stay there that afternoon and overnight, or that I could come back early next morning and would be able to go home around 5 in the afternoon. It would cost 12,000 Baht. I opted for the “one day” solution and went back the following morning. Resolute Woman showed me into her cubicle again and explained to me that she had made a mistake the previous day: since I had not been staying overnight, I would have to pay more, namely 15,000 Baht. I found it somewhat puzzling that NOT staying overnight should be more expensive, but I wasn’t really in a position to argue.
Then, my temperature was taken and I was shown into another building, where I was examined for dangerous germs, which I did not have. The whole atmosphere in that building was oppressive, I felt very alone in that low-ceiling building with equipment that did not seem to have been changed since the early seventies, and with people that were very matter-of-fact and unsmiling. I felt like making a run for it. But I didn’t.
Then, I was taken into yet another building, up to the 5th floor. The atmosphere here was a lot better and I was becoming a bit more confident that I could go through with it. I had to hand in my mobile and to change into hospital clothes, and then I was shown into my own little room, with an attached bathroom, and even a TV. I was positively surprised because I had been expecting a big ward. After a couple of minutes, a nurse and the doctor came in. She did not speak English, he did. He told me that I would now be getting a drip that would induce the abortion. “Only little pain”, he said. It was 9:30.
After about an hour, the pain became a fair bit more than “little”, and when the nurse came in with some food around 11, I told her that I was not able to eat because the pain was too strong. She left the room and I thought that maybe she would get the doctor, but nothing happened for another two hours. I was suffering quite a bit by now but since I knew it was going to be painful, I took it as inevitable, but I also started to count the minutes. By now, blood had started to flow a little, which meant that the cervix had opened. At quarter past one, the nurse came back, put me in a wheelchair and took me to a room with a gynecological chair. I climbed on it, was strapped to the metal leg rests, and then the nurse pushed something into my uterus. I don’t know for sure but I suppose it was tablets of some kind. That is one of the things I found the most unsettling: the inability to communicate, and not knowing what was going on.
I was taken back to my room, and then the real horror trip began. The pain became excruciating, I cannot describe it in any other way. I could not lie still for 5 seconds, I moaned and cried, crouched on all fours, and had uterus cramps so bad I didn’t think it was possible. Now I was not counting minutes but seconds. How long would I have to endure this? I had no idea. It turned out it was for a bit over an hour. It seemed like an eternity.
By the time they took me to the operation room again, I was exhausted, drenched in sweat and only half-conscious, which was probably a good thing. I was lifted on that chair again, strapped to it, then a rather brutal nurse gave me an injection, and that’s the last thing I remember of that. After an hour or so I woke up in a different ward and was taken to “my” room again. Everything was over. Finally! The doctor came to see me, gave me a bunch of different tablets and instructions on how to take them, I got dressed and was sent on my way. I was feeling surprisingly well, blood flow was minimal, and I did hardly have any pain, but I could not wait to get out of there. What an ordeal. I took a taxi back to my hotel. The healing process went well, I did not get any inflammations or complications, I did not have to take any painkillers afterwards. I started feeling ‘normal’ again surprisingly quickly.
So: why have I been telling this story here? It is NOT to gain any sympathy points or pity, that’s for sure. I neither want nor need that, and I am not proud of what I did. The only reason for me sharing this is that if you contemplate having an abortion in Bangkok, you should know what you can be in for, because I did not. It is not cheap (in fact, in my country it would have been cheaper), and it seemed to me they want to make you suffer a bit, because I know it does not have to be that painful, and for such a long period of time. The medical standard in that center was outdated but okay, I guess that in a private clinic you would have more “state-of-the-art” equipment, but you’d probably have to pay more, as well. What I found the most difficult to deal with was, however, the not knowing and the not being able to communicate. I think never in my life have I felt so alone.
If you consider an abortion in Bangkok – for whatever reasons – those are some of the facts that you might have to deal with. If I had known what it was going to be like, I would have waited two more weeks to get back to my own country. But it is possible, and I imagine that there will be an increasing number of private clinics out there soon that might try to make you a bit more comfortable.
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