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Argentina approves bill to move closer to increase access to safe and legal abortion

Most of the women who are hospitalized and die from complications from unsafe abortion are poor, Roman Catholics, married, with at least three children, and have at least a high school education. 

The bill allowing women to terminate pregnancies up to 14 weeks has been approved by Argentina’s lower house of Congress.  Currently, abortion is allowed on grounds of rape, risk to life of the woman and severe malformation of the fetus.

“This is great news. Argentina has approved the bill paving legal reforms to increase access to safe and legal abortion and members of the upper house have also announced their support for the measure. Thanks to the women’s rights groups who have staged large rallies various parts of the country,” said Atty. Clara Rita Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights and spokesperson of the Philippine Safe Abortion Advocacy Network (PINSAN).

“This step is significant in helping save lives of women in Argentina.  In the past, there was a young Argentinian girl who was refused an abortion whose baby died soon after birth and who eventually died too.  Just in May, Ireland paved the way to increase access to abortion in its historic referendum.  The Irish citizens overwhelmingly voted 66.4% to repeal the 8th amendment to its constitution clearly manifesting respect for women’s right to decide and a significant step to save women’s lives and freedom from disability resulting from denial of access to safe and legal abortion,” Atty. Padilla emphasized.

In the Philippines, in August 2016, a 21-year old Filipino woman with dwarfism condition who became pregnant as a result of the rape died a day after her risky childbirth due to complications resulting from her dwarfism condition.  Her mother lamented that her daughter might still be alive had her daughter been able to access safe and legal abortion.

“Because of lack of access to safe and legal abortion in the Philippines, in 2012, there were about three Filipino women who died every day from complications from unsafe abortion.  Many women report being treated inhumanely when they are rushed to the hospitals to get treatment for complications for their self-induced abortions.  And because of the restrictive abortion law and judgment passed on women, it is not only the women who induce abortions who are treated harshly but also women who suffer complications from spontaneous abortions, miscarriages after being beaten by their abusive husbands, and fetal death.  I hope our representatives in Congress and the executive and judicial branches of the Philippine government will realize how these human rights violations are so pervasive in our society and they just simply can’t turn a blind eye on this important issue.  I hope the Philippines will follow this global liberalization on abortion laws and soon decriminalize abortion since presently abortion is only recognized in our country to save the woman’s life and for medical necessity based on a 1961 supreme Court decision,” added Atty. Padilla.

Abortion is common in the Philippines with about 70 women inducing abortion every hour and about 11 women hospitalized every hour from unsafe abortion complications in 2012.  The number of women who have induced abortion in 2018 would be significantly higher since the number of women inducing abortion increases proportionally with the growing Philippine population.

Unsafe abortion is the third leading cause of maternal death and is a leading cause of hospitalizations.

There are various reasons why Filipino women undergo abortion. Filipino women induce abortion due to various reasons such as:

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 Economic

  • inability to afford the cost of raising a child or an additional child –75% of the women
  • too soon (having enough children or their pregnancy came too soon after their last birth) – more than half of the women

Age/Too young – 46% were women younger than 25

Health risks –  nearly one-third of the women

Rape – 13% of the women

Pregnancy not supported by Partner/Family – one-third of the women

Most of the women who are hospitalized and die from complications from unsafe abortion are poor, Roman Catholics, married, with at least three children, and have at least a high school education.  Poor women comprise two-thirds of those who induce abortion, using riskier abortion methods, thus disproportionately experiencing severe complications — clearly showing that lack of access to safe abortion is a social justice issue.

The archaic Spanish colonial law on abortion in our 1930 Revised Penal Code 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.

“This 2018, the Philippines is supposed to report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee), the United Nations treaty monitoring body tasked to monitor Philippine compliance with the CEDAW Convention, what steps it has done to legalize abortion since this was one of two priority issues identified by the CEDAW Committee in its 2016 CEDAW Committee Concluding Observations. This is why I’m traveling to Geneva in July to discuss our concerns with the CEDAW Committee,” said Atty. Padilla.

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 on certain grounds.

Almost all former Spanish colonies, mostly with predominant Catholic populations, have liberalized their laws on abortion such as Argentina, Bahamas, Bolivia, Chile, 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.  In 2017, then former head of state of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, strongly campaigned to relax their abortion law. Only six countries are left with a total ban on abortion particularly, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Malta and Dominican Republic.

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Other countries with constitutional protection of the life the unborn from conception allow abortion under certain exceptions such as Hungary (up to 12 weeks of gestation), Costa Rica, South Africa, Slovak Republic, Poland (risk to woman’s life and health, rape, fetal impairment), and Kenya.

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