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Forsaken Lives: The Harmful Impact of the Philippine Criminal Abortion Ban

Written By: Kelly Castagnaro
August 5, 2010

 

The Philippines is one of the few countries in the world to criminalize abortion in all circumstances with no clear exceptions. The Center for Reproductive Rights has been working closely with local partners in the Philippines and internationally to change this reality.

The Center recently launched Forsaken Lives: The Harmful Impact of the Philippine Criminal Abortion Ban, a report and accompanying video which documents women’s experiences under the ban, including the many ways the government has violated their rights in a country with one of the harshest laws on abortion in the world.  According to the World Health Organization, unsafe abortion accounts for up to 20% of maternal deaths in the Philippines.

The report thoroughly and clearly exposes the numerous human rights violations that have resulted from the ban, but perhaps the most compelling component of the Center’s campaigns are the stories from women themselves:

“Maricel was eighteen years old and already had a child…Maricel’s mother was employed as a domestic worker abroad and wanted Maricel to have the same opportunity. Maricel applied for, and had just been granted, a visa permitting her to work abroad when she found out she was pregnant. She was still breastfeeding her first child and had thought that she was adequately protected from becoming pregnant again. Afraid that the pregnancy would mean she would lose the employment opportunity, Maricel attempted to induce an abortion.

“Desperate, Maricel tried several means of abortion. She first attempted to end her pregnancy herself by taking misoprostol…Three days later, still not experiencing any bleeding, she sought the help of a neighbor, who directed her to a woman who performed “catheterizations,” meaning that she inserted catheters into the uterus for women as a method of abortion. By that time, Maricel was in her third month of pregnancy. For two weeks following the catheterization, Maricel was bleeding vaginally and feverish. She delayed going to a hospital because she was scared of what would happen to her since she had illegally induced an abortion, but finally sought medical treatment when her fever and bleeding persisted.

Maricel arrived at Fabella Memorial Hospital pale, bleeding, and running a high grade fever.

The doctors tried to treat Maricel with antibiotics and decided to perform a dilation and curettage (D&C) to complete the abortion, but it was too late: Maricel died on the operating table as a result of…the unsafe abortion.”

Personal stories like these put a human face on the so-called “abortion debate”, and convey the tragedy and senseless danger of criminalizing abortion. For Maricel and women like her around the world, we must work to change harmful and restrictive policies wherever they exist.

Click here to download the full report on the website of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Click here to learn more about IWHC’s work in Asia, and here to find out more about safe abortion, in Asia and around the world.

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