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Here's what you should know about the right to safe abortion

By Clara Rita Padilla Published May 26, 2022 1:33 pm

The internet has been abuzz about a PBA player who accused his ex-girlfriend about having an abortion. It's not just the post that has gone viral but also the expression of disapproval on the post itself and numerous posts that passed judgment on the woman. 

This is not a simple Marites. 

I will not delve on a matter that I am not privy to but rather, as a human rights activist, I will discuss the very issue of abortion. If you feel strongly against the issue of abortion or are unsure about your stance, then all the more reason for you to read my article until the end.  

The clamor to decriminalize abortion

I am a feminist lawyer and human rights activist with over 28 years of experience working on issues related to gender, gender-based violence and rights to diverse sexual orientation and gender identities.  As a young lawyer working with rape survivors, I realized that our archaic colonial Spanish law on abortion has long restricted women’s access to safe abortion. I started to do research and interviewed countless women who bore the brunt of this restrictive abortion law. I avowed to push to decriminalize abortion. 

I met other activists along way. Slowly, this advocacy has become a strong social movement not just because of staunch old-timers like myself but because we have strong supporters from millenials and Gen Z who recognize a pregnant person’s right to safe abortion. Many of these young supporters are the ones engaging in online bardagulan arguing on rights to safe abortion.

Due to the restrictive abortion law, women are unable to access safe abortion and, as a consequence, at least three women die every day from complications from unsafe abortion.

There have been many highlights of these bardagulans—this PBA player’s post, Luke Espiritu’s quotable quotes to decriminalize abortion, the exchanges on my online articles to decriminalize abortion, and my viral May 28, 2020 post on the bill I was drafting to decriminalize abortion, where I had about 11,000 supportive reactions and comments and about 2,000 unsupportive reactions and harsh comments. We have an online petition on Change.org with about 30,000 supporters.

There is clamor to decriminalize abortion.

Public health issue

Due to the restrictive abortion law, women are unable to access safe abortion and, as a consequence, at least three women die every day from complications from unsafe abortion. In 2020, there was an estimated 1.26 million Filipino women who induced abortion, many of them using unsafe methods*. 

Allowing the restrictive abortion law to prevail makes us all complicit to the deaths of these women. This is an urgent public health issue that must be addressed in this 19th Congress, not later.  

Reasons why women choose to discontinue their pregnancy

There are many reasons why a woman would choose to discontinue her pregnancy. It could be because she's still studying, she's just starting her career, or she already has several children and simply can't afford to raise another one. 

What if her pregnancy places her life and health at risk, wouldn't you choose to save your life as well?  

What if she were a 15-year old rape survivor and continuing her pregnancy places her life at risk? Parents would suddenly find themselves supportive of their daughter’s decision. Surely, a parent would want her daughter to live without risk of dying from a risky pregnancy and childbirth. 

On women's health, we must not rely on oppressive religious and discriminatory beliefs. We must know the realities women face and the risks women face due to lack of access to safe abortion.

In these times of disinformation and lack of access to information, it is everyone's duty to read and study carefully matters that impact our lives and the people around us. 

On women's health, we must not rely on oppressive religious and discriminatory beliefs. We must know the realities women face and the risks women face due to lack of access to safe abortion.

A woman’s right to safe abortion

All persons who want to have a safe abortion should be able to get one without restrictions, barriers, and without anybody shaming them.

Nobody has the right to interfere in a woman's personal decision to discontinue her pregnancy. After all, it is her body, her health, her life and her destiny that's on the line. 

If a woman chooses to discontinue her pregnancy, that is her right and we should respect her decision. Opposing her decision, including preventing her to access safe abortion undermines her very being as a woman who has the free will to decide for herself.  Those who choose to disregard the woman’s personal decision impose their own beliefs on the woman, reeking of control, patriarchy and outright discrimination against women. In plain language, I would use, "Huwag maging Liam" as in "Lee, huwag maki-alam."

Decriminalize abortion

As we celebrate the International Day of Action for Women’s Health this May 28, I urge Filipinos to heed the call to decriminalize abortion.  Be informed.  Please read the draft bill to decriminalize induced abortion. Join the campaign to decriminalize abortion and save women’s lives. The life you will be saving may be the life of your daughter, your wife or even your own.

(*In 2012, research data showed that 1,000 women in the Philippines died from complications from unsafe abortion. Data also cited in this paper written also by Clara Padilla. In 2020, it was estimated that 1.26 million induced abortion according to this separate study.)