MANILA, Philippines—In the Philippines, where abortion—a common health care procedure to end a woman’s pregnancy—remains illegal, the number of women who undergo induced, unsafe abortion continues to increase every year.
Under the 1987 Constitution and the Revised Penal Code, abortion is classified as a criminal offense and is punishable by up to six years in prison for doctors and midwives who perform the medical procedure, and by two to six years in prison for women who undergo the procedure.
Yet, data showed that over 600,000 women induced abortion in 2012. The figures kept increasing and between 2015 and 2018, the number of women who undergo induced abortion increased by 973,000 annually.
By 2020, the numbers were estimated to reach over 1.26 million.
READ: PH’s restrictive abortion laws lead to unsafe abortion, deaths
Unfortunately, since these women undergo unsafe abortions due to the country’s restrictive laws, many of them have died due to post-abortion complications—a “preventable” scenario, according to World Health Organization (WHO).
“As long as abortion is restricted in Philippine law and people impose their religious morality on women seeking life-saving abortion care, women will die and suffer disability from complications from unsafe abortion,” said lawyer Clara Padilla, spokesperson of the Philippine Safe Abortion Advocacy Network (PINSAN), in a statement on Wednesday (June 29).
“It is incumbent upon the Philippine government to decriminalize abortion being the main barrier to women’s access to safe and even post-abortion care,” she added.
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“The country’s restrictive laws on abortion have not prevented abortion and have only made it extremely unsafe, leading directly to the preventable deaths of thousands of women each year,” said PINSAN.
The 2012 abortion statistics in the country showed that lack of access to safe and legal abortion has a grave public health impact on women’s lives and health translating to:
70 women inducing abortion every hour
11 hospitalized women every hour
Three women die every day from unsafe abortion complications
But, why do Filipino women still undergo the procedure if it could put their life and health in jeopardy?
Guttmacher Institute, in its 2013 report titled “Unintended Pregnancy and Induced Abortions in the Philippines: Causes and Consequences,” Filipino women who have induced abortion cited various reasons for giving up pregnancy.
According to the study, when asked why they sought an abortion, the Filipino women who were part of the study stated the following reasons:
72 percent of women cited the economic cost of raising a child
54 percent said they already have enough children
57 percent answered that the pregnancy occurred too soon after their last one
30 percent said their husbands or partners—even family members—do not want the pregnancy
The Women’s Crisis Center’s study titled “Feminist Action Research on Reproductive Health Needs and Concerns of VAW Survivors,” found that unwanted pregnancy as a consequence of rape was one of the main reasons many Filipino women undergo an abortion.