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Studying Women Seeking Abortions

Abortion in Asia: Local Dilemmas, Global Politics edited by Andrea Whittaker, New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2013; pp xii + 253, Rs 895.

This book, edited by Andrea Whittaker, has 11 papers on the abortion laws and services available in a few East Asian and South Asian countries, namely, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, India and Bangladesh. The book contains two sets of papers: five papers present narratives and lived experiences of mostly poor and vulnerable women from Thailand, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and India, and of Burmese women near the Thai border, who have had to make hard choices about having to undergo abortions. Four papers deal more broadly with the political, legal and religious complexities involved in evolving abortion laws and reforms in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.

An overview and Epilogue by the editor, which list further challenges, form the two other chapters of the book. With the exception of Vietnam, Cambodia and India, where abortion is permitted up to 12 weeks of pregnancy without any restrictions, and beyond that in certain situations, abortion everywhere else is illegal, and is allowed only if the life of the woman is in danger, and in some rare situations. Religion, Asian family values, and the distinct culture of the region are cited as important factors working against legalising abortion.

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