MANILA, 21 April 2009 (IRIN) - When Jocelyn Cruz, 36, fell pregnant with her seventh child she decided the family could not afford another baby and tried to induce an abortion by jumping up and down.
“When nothing happened, I started banging my stomach against the window. It was painful,” she recalled. Finally, Jocelyn lost her baby. The family lives on US$4 a day, earned by her husband.
According to a 2008 study (made public last week) by the Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit organisation which carries out research on reproductive health, there are an estimated 560,000 cases of induced abortions per year, resulting in some 90,000 women being hospitalised for post-abortion care; and about 1,000 deaths a year in the island nation.
The Guttmacher Institute, which worked on the study with the University of the Philippines Population Institute, said about half of the 3.4 million pregnancies in 2008 were unintended.
The Department of Health (DOH) reports that, on average, Filipino women have one child more than they want.
Abortion in the Philippines is an illegal and punishable act, with no exceptions even on the grounds of endangering a woman’s life, rape, or foetal impairment. The minimum prison term for an abortion is six months, and the maximum six years.
Only traditional contraception methods (with high failure rates) are advocated in this conservative Catholic country. Modern contraceptives are often unavailable and unaffordable.
We’ve had cases where women were purposely made to wait while profusely bleeding. Others are treated without anaesthesia, or not cleaned as part of post-operation care. Verbal abuse is also common. Outside the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, a church in the district of Quiapo, Manila, street vendors sell homemade herbal concoctions to induce menstruation.
Others go to a local 'hilot' or masseuse, a woman with no formal medical training, who uses intense massage on the abdominal area...
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