A Pro-choice’s Approach On Abortion

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Abortion is certainly one of the long-standing issues that divide our society today. Having to choose to be pro-life or pro-choice is a big statement of one’s opinion. People mostly think that abortion is an inhumane and unethical act because it is killing an unborn child. On the contrary, people also believe that abortion is a concept of bodily rights. It is a woman’s liberty to choose whether or not to conceive a child.

For over a century, the issue of abortion in the Philippines has been up for debate. The topic has remained controversial, despite being a catholic country. One of the main reasons is because the principles and ideas of liberalism such as feminism, have reached our shores. There are women rights groups in the Philippines such as Philippine Safe Abortion Advocacy Network (PINSAN) that are pushing for the legalization of abortion. They mention that abortion is already rampant in the Philippines, but remains unknown to the general public. Another reason is the strong opposition of the conservatives, specifically the Catholic Church. As for the Philippines, being a catholic country, it is certain that the movement supporting the legalization of abortion would pose a challenge.

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According to the pro-life, abortion is killing of a human being which simply defies the word of God. There is also no fine line or conclusion between a fetus and a baby. Whereas a fetus is defined as unborn offspring of a mammal, in particular, an unborn human baby more than eight weeks after conception, while a baby is defined as a very young child, especially one newly or recently born. In addition to their claim, the Catholic Church isn’t the only one against abortion; take Buddhism for an instance, Buddhists believe that for the same reason, abortion is deliberately destroying the gift of life. Moreover, Buddhists are expected to take full responsibility of everything they do and the repercussions of that action.

In order to counter-argue the statement of the conservatives or the pro-life, the concept of bodily rights is introduced, which is the foremost idea of those groups who favor abortion (prochoice). A philosopher named Judith Jarvis Thomson used this concept to come up with the analogy about forcing a woman to continue an unwanted pregnancy and forcing a person’s body is used as a dialysis machine for another person suffering from kidney failure. She stated that even if the fetus has the right to live, it is still morally permissible because a woman, or the mother, has the right to control her own body. Thomson argued that it is that just as it would be permissible to “unplug” and thereby cause the death of the person who is using one’s kidneys, so it is acceptable to abort the fetus (from what has been said, has no right to use one’s body against one’s will).

The constitutional right to choose is a liberty for both men and women. Despite women having these kinds of rights, abortion is still highly stigmatized in the Philippines. The stigma surrounding bodily rights is perpetuated by the Government of the Philippines, in compliance with the demands of the Catholic hierarchy, which includes the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). As a result of this phenomenon, women’s voices and their stories are often silenced, never given a chance to be heard by the public. Left without any means to control their fertility, exposed to dangerous methodologies, and made vulnerable to abuse in the health system within the discriminatory environment of this country.

Recent studies have shown that unsafe abortion is a significant contributor to the Philippine’s high maternal mortality ratio of about 1,000 Filipino women die each year from unsafe abortion complications, while tens of thousands are hospitalized. The majority of women who contribute to these statistics are usually young, poor, or from rural areas. Poor women are particularly susceptible to these kinds of complications, as they face barriers in obtaining effective means of family planning and lack access to reproductive health services. These abortion procedures are usually done in back-alley clinics and by people who often have no professional medical background. This puts the mother in dangerous and life threatening situation, with 8 out of 10 of these women develop complications. The examples of these common physical complications that arise from the use of such crude and dangerous methods include hemorrhage, sepsis, peritonitis, and trauma to the cervix, vagina, uterus, and abdominal organs. With these results, pro-choice groups believe that if abortion would be legalized, abortion will now take place in medical settings, ensuring the safety of the mother.

For over a century, abortion has been criminalized in the Philippines. The law and the criminal revisions do not provide any exception to allow abortion for women. Because of that, women resort to accessing unsafe and unsanitary abortion. According to Guttmacher statistics, in 2008 alone, this criminal abortion ban has lead to an estimated result in the deaths of at least 1,000 women and complications for 90,000 more.

The 2015 UN recommendations suggest that the country’s next step would only be to give access to safe and legal abortion. Lawyer Padilla of EnGendeRights explained that by looking over the sexual health situation of the Philippines, including the whole Reproductive Health, there is still evident insufficient access to contraceptives. The likely subsequent phenomena for unintended pregnancy are high incidence of unsafe abortion, also relating to maternal mortality and morbidity. Meanwhile, abortion under Philippine law has ‘no express exceptions,’ said Padilla, an NGO championing women’s rights and rights to sexual orientation and gender identity. Without the full access to RH information and services, the cycle will most likely to repeat itself.

In fact, in April 2015, the UN has advised the Philippines to amend its laws. Specifically to legalize abortion in cases of rape, incest, threats to the mother’s life or health, and serious malformation of the fetus. It also suggested by the UN to decriminalize ‘all other cases’ where women undergo abortion. It is evident that the Philippines are home to some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the entire world. Under the current legislation, abortion is restricted in all cases; there is no direct legal justification for an abortion even if the pregnancy puts the mother’s life in danger. The rate of induced abortion in these vulnerable populations reflects the tribulations women experience in accessing reproductive health care, including modern contraceptives. Despite the approval of the country’s Reproductive Health Bill into law, contraception and sex education, among others, remain to be controversial in the Philippines. This absolute ban continues to drive women to seek abortions from untrained providers, using folk medicine and in unsanitary conditions.


Since liberal ideas have already influenced our country, it is therefore only right to legalize abortion in the Philippines. The implementation will liberate the Filipinos from ignorance and complacency. With that in mind, we should not forget that every right is tied with responsibility. However, if it is ever implemented, a strong balance check and well established control system must be provided as well:

  1. The whole population should rightly be informed and educated regarding the procedures, benefits (if it includes any), and any potential risk,
  2. All grounds must be legal; standards must be set between legal and illegal forms and methods of abortion,
  3. There must be uniform procedures throughout the country,
  4. The women has the right to choose what happens in her own body, meaning that nothing is forced against her will, let anyone who forces a woman to have an abortion be charged and punished by the state,
  5. Educate the population about contraceptives or birth control methods; let it be known the  significance of family unit as building blocks of the society,
  6. Laws that will protect women regarding the right to terminate pregnancies must be promulgated,
  7. Any medical specialist must be registered and must have a license in order to perform such procedure.

In the case of the pro-life, pro-choice, and the government being able to find a common ground where their differences can be settled, solutions that are proposed must be taken into consideration. Rest assured that morbidity and maternal deaths due to unsafe and unsanitary procedures would significantly decrease, with the chance of also affecting the rate of the country’s population. As for the Filipino people, we will be righteous enough to learn that every individual serves a purpose and value, that parenthood isn’t just a right but is always coupled with responsibility. Once abortion is legalized, may it serve its purpose whilst functioning along with the systems. Also, should it enable the Filipinos to realize that freedom is only freedom when individuals become responsible for their own acts. In that circumstance, we should earn our own country a place among the civilized nations of the world.


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