During President Duterte’s SONA speech, he mentioned as an aside that he is personally against abortion.
“In Philippine jurisprudence it is recognized that therapeutic abortion is allowed to save the life of the woman. This has been held in the 1961 Supreme Court case of Geluz v. CA. Even Fr. Joaquin Bernas, a constitutionalist and a priest, has opined that abortion is allowed under the 1987 Constitution to save the life of the woman. Legal medicine books by Filipino medico-legal writers recognize the right to therapeutic abortions to preserve the life of the woman and to preserve her health. In law, practice and policy, therapeutic abortions are allowed,” said Atty. Clara Rita Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights.
“There are many cases where therapeutic abortion can be allowed to save the life of a woman or to prevent disability. Pregnant women with conditions such as dwarfism, hypertensive disorders, tuberculosis, diabetes, bronchial asthma, goiter, HIV, malaria, severe anemia, malnutrition, and pregnant women who are less than 18 or greater than 35 years of age, have a fourth or more children, are battered by their husbands or partners, and have spinal metal plates may die from complications from pregnancy and childbirth and may need access to safe abortion to save their lives and prevent life-long disability.
Worldwide, many women die from pregnancy and childbirth, e.g., 27.1% due to post-partum hemorrhage, 14% due to hypertensive disorders, and about 9% due to various reasons,” added Atty. Padilla.
Atty. Padilla continued, “Many of these conditions are common to Filipino pregnant women and girls. In August 2016, a 21-year old rape victim who became pregnant as a result of the rape died a day after giving birth due to complications from her risky childbirth resulting from her dwarfism condition. Her mother lamented that her daughter might be alive today had her daughter been able access to safe and legal abortion.”
“A woman may also have suffered a previous post-partum hemorrhage (PPH) in the past and may want to induce abortion to avoid risk to her health and life due to PPH. Although interventions exist to prevent these maternal deaths and address the preexisting health concerns of women, the services and information regarding the health services may not be accessible to poor, rural, and young women,” stressed Atty. Padilla.
“There are women who become suicidal because of their pregnancy. These include rape victim-survivors who suffer depression, become suicidal, and resort to clandestine and unsafe abortion. Some incest rape victim-survivors who became pregnant after being raped by their own fathers whether adolescents or adults have resorted to clandestine and unsafe abortion risking their health and lives. About one in every nine Filipino women who induce abortion are rape victim-survivors. Without access to safe and legal abortion, they end up part of the statistics of women who die from unsafe abortion complications. These cases fall under the ambit of therapeutic abortions to save the life and health of the woman,” explained Atty. Padilla.
“Abortion is common in the Philippines with about 70 women inducing abortion every hour. Due to lack of access to safe and legal abortion, three women die every day from unsafe abortion complications and 11 women are hospitalized every hour. The archaic Spanish colonial law on abortion has not decreased the number of women who induce abortion rather it has made it dangerous for women who resort to clandestine and unsafe abortion. It is time to make abortion safe and legal. Making abortion safe and legal in the Philippines and clearly recognizing in law, practice and policy that therapeutic abortions are allowed will save the lives of at least three women every day,” emphasized Atty. Padilla.
Atty. Padilla added, “Predominantly Catholic countries have liberalized their laws on abortion including Spain in 2010 with Prime Minister Zapatero at the helm of legalizing abortion on request during the first 14 weeks of the pregnancy and thereafter on specific grounds and countries such as Belgium, France, and Italy allow abortion upon a woman’s request; Poland allows abortion to protect a woman’s life and physical health and in cases of rape, incest, and fetal impairment; Hungary allows abortion up to 12 weeks of gestation; Portugal allows abortion up to 10 weeks of gestation; Brazil and Ireland on certain grounds. Almost all former Spanish colonies, mostly with predominant Catholic populations, have liberalized their laws on abortion such as Argentina, Bahamas, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, and Venezuela, allowing abortion on certain grounds leaving the Philippines to contend with its antiquated colonial Spanish law. Mexico City, a predominantly Catholic city, even provides safe and legal abortion for free. This leaves the Philippines as one of a handful countries worldwide which continue to penalize their women and adolescent girls for having an abortion.”
“Other countries with same constitutional protection of the life the unborn from conception allow abortion under certain exceptions such as Hungary, Costa Rica, South Africa, Ireland, Slovak Republic, Poland, and Kenya,” Atty. Padilla concluded.
EnGendeRights December 2016 publications on Access to Safe and Legal Abortion and Post-Abortion Care:
1) Policy Brief – EnGendeRights, “Access to Safe and Legal Abortion and Post-Abortion Care Can Save Filipino Women’s Lives”, Clara Rita Padilla
2) Fact Sheets series entitled, “Safe and Legal Abortion Saves Women’s Lives”:
2.1) FACT SHEET 1 – EnGendeRights, “Safe and Legal Abortion Saves Women’s Lives: Public Health Concerns and Social Costs of Lack of Access to Safe and Legal Abortion and Post-Abortion Care”, Clara Rita Padilla
2.2) FACT SHEET 2 – EnGendeRights, “Safe and Legal Abortion Saves Women’s Lives: Liberalizing Abortion Laws Will Save Women’s Lives: Asian, Predominantly Catholic Countries, and Former Spanish colonies Allowing safe and Legal Abortion; The Philippine Constitution Allows Access to Safe and Legal Abortion”, Clara Rita Padilla
2.3) FACT SHEET 3 – EnGendeRights, “Safe and Legal Abortion Saves Women’s Lives: Constitutional Guarantees, Comparative Law, International and Regional Human Rights Standards Support the Right to Safe and Legal Abortion”, Clara Rita Padilla
Resources are also available via: