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Call for Legalized Abortions for HIV Sufferers

      HIV-POSITIVE pregnant women should have the right to terminate their pregnancies legally, participants said yesterday at a seminar on AZT usage and HIV-infected pregnant-women''s rights and choices.

      Speaking at the seminar, representatives from relevant agencies said the right to abortion would eradicate possible ensuing problems such as HIV-infected babies or side-effects from the AZT drug. AZT is commonly used to reduce the risk of Aids transmission from mothers to their children.

      Although AZT is an effective medicine, it only reduces the transmission rate of HIV from mother to child to 50 per cent and could have negative impacts on the user''s health, said Associate Professor Krittaya Archavanijkul of Mahidol University''s Institute for Population and Social Research.

      ''HIV-positive pregnant women should have other alternatives besides the use of AZT. Thus, they should have the right to make the decision on whether to have an abortion,'' she said.

      Although women have a right to decide whether to take AZT after being informed of its pros and cons, they have no other choice but to take it if they want to prevent their babies from contracting the disease, she said.

      Krittaya said it was a pity that the pro-choice movement for HIV-infected pregnant women earlier failed to win legal support because the Medical Council interpreted the laws too strictly.

      Under criminal law, abortion is illegal except when continuing the pregnancy would put the mother''s life in jeopardy or when the pregnancy resulted from rape. The Medical Council ruled that HIV-positive women''s lives are in jeopardy regardless of the pregnancy and thus decided not to grant this group of women the right to abortion.

      ''Many legal experts hold the view that such an interpretation lacks compassion,'' Krittaya said.

      To help these women, doctors at many hospitals risk legal retribution by performing abortions for HIV-positive women who want them, she said.

      The abortion laws should be amended in order to allow HIV-infected expectant women to have their pregnancies terminated, said Dr. Tawee Chotiwittayasunont of the Children''s Hospital.

      ''Abortion is the best alternative and the cheapest way,'' he said, although the use of AZT with other medicines is very effective in preventing the transfer of Aids to babies.

      A representative from the non-governmental organization Siam Care, which takes care of HIV-positive mothers and their children, said abortion was favorable because many women had suffered psychologically after being ''exposed'' as HIV carriers by acquaintances who noticed they were not breastfeeding their babies.

      ''People around them notice the strange practice, realize the truth and shun them,'' the representative said.

      An HIV-positive pregnant woman, ``Oum'', said she refuses to use AZT for fear that the medicine might hurt her both physically and psychologically.

      ''I will have problems answering to my family, relatives and neighbors if I need to take the AZT. I cannot tell them that it''s for Aids,'' she said.

      Oum said that pregnant women should not be forced to take HIV tests, because even if they find out they are HIV-positive, they are not allowed to terminate their pregnancies.

     

      Copyright 2000 NATION all rights reserved as distributed by WorldSources, Inc.

     

Copyright 2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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