Abortion in the Philippines

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Introduction

Today, the Philippines is considered to have one of the biggest number of population that had double over three decades from 45 million to 100 million [1]. However, the possible reason behind their rapid increase of population is lack of family planning due to the religious background.

History

Roman Catholicism

Over the century, there is no clear history about Roman Catholic views on abortion. Pope Pius IX believed the fetus is not considered as human being in 1869 as abortion is not a sin. However, according to 1974 document from Vatican, fetus is considered as an human being because it is composed by “the presence of the spiritual soul and personhood”[2].

Religion in the Philippines

The Philippines was colonized by the Spaniards in the late 1500s. During their rule, Roman Catholicism was introduced to the Philippines.[3] . Today, about 80% of the population is Roman Catholic. As a result, deeply rooted religious beliefs and values prohibit the legalization of abortion in the Philippines.

The bill regarding the abortion is duplicated from the government in the Spain in 1870[4]. It has been ongoing. The only time when they made changes was December 1930. However, Spain’s abortion laws have ease down. The Philippines did not change the law. Currently, the Philippines is one of fourteen countries that still ban abortion.

Statistics

The Philippines became 12th largest population in the world after they pass more than 103 million people. According to National Statistics Office, after every year, it adds more than a million. [2]

According to NSO, 36 percent of mothers admitted their birth are unexpected due to lack of education about birth control. United Nations Family Planning Association states teen pregnancy of the Philippines is beatable to other countries in Southeast Asia. [5]

According to the World Health Organization [6], the estimate of abortion is around 400,000 to 500,000 and is still increasing. However, it is one of the biggest number of unsafe abortion in Asia. About 100,000 of women are submitted to hospital due to unsafe abortion.

Effect in the Philippines

Legal Status

Based on the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, abortion is considered a crime. The first draft was proposed in 1870 and last revised in 2007. According to Article 256, 289, and 259 of the revised Penal Code of the Philippines [3], a woman who undergoes abortion will be sentenced for up to six years. Similarly, a physician or midwife who allows the process to occur or performs the process itself, will suffer the same fate. Additionally, any family member who aids in performing the abortion will receive the "penalty of correctional prison in medium and maximum periods" [7]

Furthermore, the Constitution of the Philippines of 1987 states “shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.”

However, according to United Nations of Economic and Social Affairs [8], a woman should be considered a choice about abortion under certain circumstances. An example of this is when woman's life or health is endangered due to her pregnancy. Choice should be given to her if the abortion could potentially save her life. However, this bill did not pass and such a circumstance was considered to be rare.

Economic Status

The economy in the Philippines is a combination of agriculture and aquaculture [9]. The Philippines has many resources from the nature. Most individuals’ salary are based on their industries such as food processing, textiles and garments, mining, and metal. It is common that there is a gap between the rich and the poor by with a growing middle class. According to the sources, the GDP per capita of $3,500 and it is about one third of the population are already considered below the poverty line[10].

Based on statistics about abortion, overpopulation is the biggest problem in the Philippines. Due to lack of education about family planning, the population rapidly increases every year and employment is dramatically decreasing[11]. Working aboard is becoming more popular due to lack of opportunities to each individual and strong need to support their children. [4]


Arguments For and Against Abortion

The arguments for and against abortion stems from two premises regarding the status of the conceptus (fetus). The defenders of abortion supposes that a fertilized egg or fetus is not developed enough to be considered a human being. Contrarily, the opposing party asserts that human life is created the moment the sperm meets the egg, resulting in the consideration of the fetus as a human being. [12]

Roman Catholic Churches took words from Pope Paul VI. Pope Paul VI states that everyone should consider having the relationship between male and female is involves family making decisions. [13]

Arguments Against Abortion in the Philippines

Religion, particularly Christianity, is perhaps the main barrier that prevents the legalization of abortion. Dismantling this barrier is exceptionally difficult in a country that is comprised of religious citizens. The condemnation of abortion is based heavily on the belief that human beings (whether underdeveloped or fully) are of divine creation. [12] For this reason, termination of pregnancy is considered to be equivalent to murder due to the shared intent of ending a life. In addition to murder being a criminal offence, it is also considered a grave sin in Christianity. In general, the Church adamantly advocates against abortion regardless of ethical issues arising from unwanted or difficult pregnancies in order to avoid committing a mortal sin.

Anti-abortion law also questions the gender equality. It strongly against to feminists. In Summer 1987 [5], a group of women from the Tapestry Campaign invent a quilt by collecting and sewing all pieces from women all over the world. Unfortunately, Catholic Chruch disapproved and states it is women’s responsible to choose to have premarital sex.

Family Culture

Most family culture is strongly based on their own religions especially Roman Catholicism. According to most typical Filipino families, sex is considered as darkness, guilt, and discomfort. Sex “imposed silence”. Most parents do not teach their kids about sex or family planning to avoid them to have sexual desires. [14]

Gender Equality

Anti-abortion law also questions the gender equality. It strongly against to feminists. In Summer 1987, a group of women from the Tapestry Campaign invent a quilt by collecting and sewing all pieces from women all over the world. Unfortunately, Catholic Church disapproved and states it is women’s responsible to choose to have premarital sex.

In 2009, Magna Carta for Woman has submitted and receive acceptance the law from Philippines to reduce discrimination against women by providing the accomandations to protect, fulfill, and give the rights of women [15].

Introduction of RH Bill

The major problem of the Philippines is overpopulation. Politicians have considered and create the bill to give a choice to every woman. The effect has been reviewed extensively in recent years. The possible solution of population is to reduce the number of people by presenting Responsible Parenthood and Preorductive Health Act of 2012. It is known as RH Bill [16]. The same bill proposes to reduce the population by providing an education about family planning, reproductive health, and population development in the Philippines. However, it is still not yet passed to the government and this topic is still controversial.

Some Examples of Ethical Issues Regarding Abortion[12]

  • Pregnancy results from rape
  • Pregnancy endangers mother's life
  • Unwanted pregnancy creates financial distress in family
  • Fetus undergoes malformations during pregnancy with expectations of disability when born (Parent(s) is/are then unable to financially, emotionally and/or physically live with expected disability)

Methods

In the Philippines, there are roughly 50% abortion attempts for women under 25 years old [5]. Since it is illegal, it is no surprise that those who practice abortion are not well-trained. Often, women who undergo these unskilled procedures experience more risks and serious health consequences. The following are a few popular techniques of abortion in the Philippines. Problems arising from these techniques include unskilled and untrained practitioners and unsanitary, possibly contaminated equipments.

Manual Vacuum Aspiration

This process involves the use of a vacuuming effect through the uterus to remove the contents [6]. While Manual Vacuum Aspiration is common in North America, this type of technique can be pricey and risky in the Philippines. Additionally, while MVA is not illegal, it is only legally used for women who have experienced a miscarriage.

Dilation and curettage

Dilation and curettage is the most common and simplest technique used for abortion. Similar to Manual Vacuum Aspiration, Curettage is another definition of scrap and scoop. The process involves “dilating” (opening the cervices) and “curettaging” (scooping the embryos and scrap) [7]. It is an old-fashioned abortion and mostly illegally used in the Philippines. It is considered to be a practice of great risk due to the fact that most practitioners are thought to leave their instruments unsanitized.

Minda

Minda is folk type of abortion in the Philippines [8]. The process does not require any type of instruments unlike manual vacuum aspiration and dilation and curettage. It provides a natural medical activity through a special type of masseuse. The practitioner pounds on the area of uterus to crush fetus by giving rough strokes and pinching around lower abdomen.

Cytotec

In cases in which women are unable to afford Manuel Vacuum Aspiration or Dilation and Curettage and find Minda difficult to access, Cytotec becomes a popular option in the Philippines [9]. Usually, Cytotec is illegally prescribed and are bought in the Black Market. The Black Market is usually located around old churches. The process typically involves women administering a tablet orally and and inserting two more tablets in their vaginas.

Other

Other means of abortion include the use of drugs such as Methotrexate, Mifeprex (or RU486) and Mifepristone, which terminate pregnancy.[10]

Consequences

Health Consequences

According to the National Health surveys, roughly 160 deaths per 100,000 live births result from performing unsafe abortion [17]The most common complications that result from unsafe abortion are excessive blood loss and infection. Septic shock, peritonitis, cervical or vaginal lacerations, and intestinal perforations are among other complications, but are rare.[18] About ten thousand women are hospitalized each year due to complications arising from unsafe abortion. However, since abortion is illegal, most women are denied care and are rejected by the hospital to avoid legal issues.

Legal Consequences

Once the government finds out the mother who perform abortion or the provider, they will be arrested and be sentenced for up to 6 years [19]

References

  1. Philippines economy: Demographic profile (2008). . New York: The Economist Intelligence Unit N.A., Incorporated.
  2. Johnson, K. (2005). Wisdom of abortion: Its power, purpose and meaning. (2nd ed., pp. 61-73). United States: WisdomOfAbortion.com.
  3. Conde, C. (2005, May 16). Philippines abortion crisis. Retrieved April 6, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/15/world/asia/15iht-phils.html?_r=1&
  4. Dalvie, S., Barua A, AP Luczon C, and Tadiar F. A Study of Knowledge, Attitudes and Understanding of Legal Professionals about Safe Abortion as a Women’s Right. Web. 15 May 2015. <http://asap-asia.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Philippines_Abortion_Booklet_Update.pdf>.
  5. Pastrana, D. (2013, February 23). World Socialist Web Site. Retrieved April 6, 2015, from http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/02/22/phil-f22.html
  6. Conde, C. (2005, May 16). Philippines abortion crisis. Retrieved April 6, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/15/world/asia/15iht-phils.html?_r=1&
  7. http://www.un.org/depts/los/LEGISLATIONANDTREATIES/PDFFILES/PHL_revised_penal_code.pdf
  8. Hussain R and Finer LB, Unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion in the Philippines: context and consequences, In Brief, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2013, No. 3 <http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/IB-unintended-pregnancy-philippines.pdf>
  9. Philippines economy: Demographic profile (2008). . New York: The Economist Intelligence Unit N.A., Incorporated.
  10. Cherry, A., & Dillon, M. (n.d.). International handbook of adolescent pregnancy: Medical, psychosocial, and public health responses (pp. 511-520).
  11. Pastrana, D. (2013, February 23). World Socialist Web Site. Retrieved April 6, 2015, from http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/02/22/phil-f22.html
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Ştefana, I. (2014). Arguments for and Against Abortion in Terms of Teleological and Deontological Theories. In Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 149, 927–935.
  13. Roman Catholic Churches took words from Pope Paul VI. Pope Paul VI states that everyone should consider having the relationship between male and female is involves family making decisions.
  14. Cherry, A., & Dillon, M. (n.d.). International handbook of adolescent pregnancy: Medical, psychosocial, and public health responses (pp. 511-520).
  15. Cherry, A., & Dillon, M. (n.d.). International handbook of adolescent pregnancy: Medical, psychosocial, and public health responses (pp. 511-520).
  16. An act revising the Penal code and other penal laws .. (1931). Manila.
  17. [1]
  18. Guttmacher Institute (2011). In Brief: Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States. Available online: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.htm
  19. An act revising the Penal code and other penal laws .. (1931). Manila.