January 18, 2008
Abortion in the Philippines: Reasons and Responsibilities
Abortion is a controversial issue but it should be discussed because it is happening, and is more widespread than we care to admit. If we truly care about life, then we must understand what is going on (Tan 2008). Ideally, pregnancy is a wanted and happy event for women, their partners and their families. Unfortunately, this is not always so. Around the world, millions of women every year become pregnant unintentionally. In the Philippines, as in other countries, some of these women are faced with a difficult choice: to give birth to a child that they are not prepared or able to care for, or to obtain an illegal, and often unsafe, abortion (Singh et al. 2006). Abortion and Philippines Laws
Abortion is illegal in the Philippines and is not permitted under any circumstance. The act is criminalized by the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, which was enacted in 1930 but remains in effect to day. Articles 256, 258 and 259 of the Code mandate imprisonment for the woman who undergoes the abortion, as well as for any person who assists in the procedure, even if they be the woman's parents, a physician or midwife. Article 258 further imposes a higher prison term on the woman or her parents if the abortion is undertaken "in order to conceal [the woman's] dishonor" (Tan 2008 and Wikipedia 2008). The 1987 Constitution of the Philippines effectively any amendments to the Penal Code’s provisions on abortion because of Article II, Section 12, which states: “The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.” In the principle, legalizing abortion would require a referendum to amend the constitution, although the enactment of a more definitive provision sanctioning the ban was not successful. In 1999, Congressman Roy Padilla Jr. of Camarines Norte filed House Bill 6343 seeking to allow abortion in special cases (e.g., rape, congenital defects in the fetus or cases where the mother’s life is endangered). It is unlikely that the bill will be passed but it has stimulated discussion on abortion. The passage of HB 6343 will require amendment because the Bill as it presently stands is inherently unconstitutional (Wikipedia 2008 and Tan 2008). The United Nations recognizes that abortion in the Philippines is permitted only in instances in which the pregnant woman's life is endangered. However, there is no law in the Philippines that expressly authorizes abortions in order to save the woman's life; and the general provisions which do penalize abortion make no qualifications if the woman's life is endangered. It may be argued that an abortion to save the mother's life could be classified as a justifying circumstance (duress as opposed to self-defense) that would bar criminal prosecution under the Revised Penal Code. However, this position has yet to be adopted or debunked by the Philippine Supreme Court. Proposals to liberalize Philippine abortion laws have been opposed by the
Abortion: To terminate or not to terminate
“Ten to 30 percent of maternal deaths are caused by abortions,” deplored Biran Affandi, chair of the Asia Pacific Council on Contraception (Apcoc). Maternal deaths are defined as mortalities during pregnancy or up to six weeks after delivery. Abortion can either be spontaneous or induced. It is considered spontaneous (also known as miscarriage) when the loss of pregnancy happens before “fetal viability” (22 weeks gestation). Induced abortion is defined as, to quote the words of World Health Organization, “a process by which pregnancy is terminated before...